Monday, May 23, 2005


Market reforms for Latin America's energy resources are falling out of favor. Indigenous and neo-socialist groups have joined together to promote nationalizing private installations to control natural resources. Bolivia is the country where nationalization holds the most appeal. The country has witnessed battles over the decades concerning silver, tin and gold. Now, nearly discovered gas deposits are providing the impetus for a renewed battle over globalization.

On one side, there are Bolivians like Carlos Alberto López, a former vice minister of energy who was educated at Harvard and the London School of Economics. Mr. López, now a consultant for energy companies, contends that nationalizing the oil industry would be a disaster for the country. He said Bolivia should instead be taking advantage of the fact that it has Latin America's second largest gas reserves by attracting foreign investors with favorable terms and then selling the gas to energy-hungry giants like Brazil or the United States.

"This was our last best hope for Bolivia's economy to grow," Mr. López, 45, said in an interview.

Across this capital, in a small office decorated with posters of the revolutionary icon Che Guevara, another protagonist expresses a sharply opposed viewpoint. "The people have a right to nationalize and expropriate," said Jaime Solares, 53, who started working at age 13, has a 10th grade education and heads the Bolivian Workers Central, the country's largest labor confederation. "The people no longer believe in neo-liberalism."

The movement against market reforms appears to be gaining ground.

Bolivia Epitomizes Fight for Natural Resources - New York Times


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