The Bolivian government on Monday nationalized the fuel transport company Transredes, a subsidiary of British firm Ashmore and the Anglo-Dutch company Shell.
Bolivian President Evo Morales signed the decree stipulating the handover of Transredes to the state company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) on Monday.
The ceremony took place in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 900km east of La Paz. Transredes, headquartered in Santa Cruz, has been operating in Bolivia for 12 years and was initially a subsidiary of US giant Enron.
“On May 1, 2006, we launched the historic decision of basing the sovereignty and independence of the country on our natural resources,” Bolivian Energy Minister Carlos Villegas said.
The Morales government changed Bolivia’s energy policy two years ago, signing new contracts with 12 foreign energy firms that had been active in the Andean country since 1996.
On May 1 the authorities announced deals with subsidiaries of the Spanish company Repsol-YPF and with British Petroleum, but none with Ashmore-Shell over Transredes, which controls all gas pipes in Bolivia.
Villegas said the deadline for a deal with Transredes stockholders expired last Friday. He said Shell would get US$48 for each of its shares, but added that there was no such agreement with Ashmore.
He also complained that the former leadership of Transredes made a serious mistake on Saturday by handing over the documents on the planned enlargement of the Chaco gas pipe to Tarija Governor Mario Cossio, a declared opponent of Morales.
Villegas said YPFB would undertake the enlargement of the Carrasco-Cochabamba gas pipe to guarantee the supply of natural gas to western Bolivia.
The nationalization of Transredes was the latest in a series of takeovers of private sectors of the economy being carried out by Morales to finance the improvement of the lot of the country’s impoverished indigenous majority.
Morales was elected in 2005, the first president of indigenous descent in the country’s history.