Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bolivia no longer has Shell to pay for

With Shell out the way, and the recall referendum under his belt, Morales can now start to get things moving

Latest figures on Venezuela Analysis show that Morales's result in Sundays recall referendum topped 63.1%, over 10% more than he scored in the December 2005 presidential election. The result has prompted surprise calls from the US for other Bolivian parties to launch a 'unity of dialogue' hoping to score a role in relaxing the political tension present in Bolivia.

Celebrations within the Evo camp should be consorted with a dose of profuse planning, especially concerning matters of national wealth. Last Friday Jose Maria Linardi of Anglo-Dutch Company Shell signed an accord with Bolvian Hydrocarbon Minister Carlos Villegas to compensate the oil conglomerate for its share in the nationalised company Transredes. The compensation figure looks to be in the ballpark of $120.57 Million, but reports are yet to be confirmed.

The deal is set to validate the Bolivian state-owned Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) with a 98% stake in Transredes with the remaining 2% in the hands of private partners. The situation regarding Ashmore Energy International (AEI), the British company based in the tax haven Cayman Islands that was sharing a 50% stake with Shell, still remains unfinished. The company filed for International arbitration when the Morales government seized the stake of the company - which previously controlled the operations of 6,024km gas pipelines - after weeks of inconclusive talks.

It is of no surprise then that the gas-rich departments - otherwise known as the "Half Moon" areas - are also the departments that have given Morales his strongest opposition, the Tarija department, where governor Mario Cossío will keep his job after the referendum, contains 85% of Bolivian total gas reserves. Santa Cruz, the first department to back regional autonomy, contains 10.6%. It is clear that the eastern rich of Bolivia fail to see the imperatives of the poorest country in South America being able to keep 85% of its national gas profits and the push for Morales' redistribution plans.

But of course why would they when they have the likes of Branko Marinkovic as their spokesperson. Marinkovic is a known promoter of separatism in Bolivia where he is a member of the Federation of Free Entrepreneurs of Santa Cruz. A descendent of Croatian Immigrants, like so many of the corrupt and rich in Bolivia, he is also a big landowner who once pulled strings at Transredes. As a leader of the Santa Cruz autonomy movement, he is an avowed supporter of nesting gas wealth exclusively to the privileged.

Of course Marinkovic and other regionalists appeal only to the greed and short sightedness of the "Half-Moon's" rich population, but there are perfectly equitable reasons to advocate the nationalization of the gas fields. Firstly public revenues are on the rise, by fivefold according to one report. An increase in the number of children who once worked the streets have returned to school, illustrated by the teaching of the autochthonous languages Aymara and Quechua in schools. The health sector now caters freely to half of the population, there has been the introduction of a dignity pension for the over 60's, the inhabitants of the altiplano are due to receive 24 hours of solar panel energy from the existing 3-4 hours of energy they have now.

In other plans to better the existing conditions of those who live in the high plains, Venezuela along with its commercial ties to Iran, are due to loan Bolivia 225 Million to create a state cement company. Bolivia’s vice minister of medium and large businesses, Eduardo Peinado, has said that “The plant will have the capacity to produce 700 ton[ne]s of cement per year, and this will be destined principally for the construction of roads and houses for Bolivians”.

If left to private interests and the NAFTA-pandering consortium of overt fascists and white nationalists still disregarding Morales's attempts to reorganize Bolivia for the better, then the likelihood of any changes on the scale of those written above seeing the light of day would be rather slim.

Comments like that of Enrique Mendizabal demonstrate the extent to which some observers interpret Evo Morales himself as blame for the political unrest in Bolivia, but its these very same observers who want a return to the "democracy" where the most vulnerable communities are without artificial light during the night hours, where children don't receive educations, where healthcare is promised the rich before the poor, where pensions are non-existent, and where the "Cruzano heavies" come before the 63.1% of Bolivians who want Evo to push through with his waiting initiatives.

His legacy should be one of glory and hope for the Bolivian people, not intimidation and destitution. Exactly how democratic would this be?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jose Maria Linardi is my dad. He gets the job done.