Venezuela and Iran are to loan Bolivia US$225 million to create a state cement company for the construction of roads and houses, Deputy Minister for Small and Medium Businesses Eduardo Peinado said on Saturday. The deal was made between Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan Ambassador Julio Montes Prado and Iranian business official Hojjatollah Soltani, he said.
Bolivia, South America’s poorest nation, has formed strong ties with Venezuela under Morales.
The Bolivian leader has modeled socialist reforms in his country’s after those of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who enjoys strong commercial ties with Iran.
Peinado said the state company to be formed would use the credit to build two plants in the southern Andean cities of Oruru and Potosi that would produce a total 700,000 tonnes of cement per year.
The deal has a political dimension: One of Morales’ political opponents, Samuel Doria Medina, controls cement production in Bolivia through several private companies.
Separately, Bolivia and Shell have signed a deal compensating the Anglo-Dutch energy group for its share in the nationalized gas pipeline company, Transredes.
The accord was signed late on Friday by Bolivian Energy Minister Carlos Villegas and Shell representative Jose Maria Linardi in the presence of Morales, a photographer at the ceremony said.
The amount of the deal for Shell’s stake in Transredes, which was nationalized by Morales last year, was not divulged by officials.
Reports on Saturday, however, put the sum at US$120.57 million.
The accord lifts the share held by Bolivia’s state-owned YPBF energy company in Transredes and gives the government a 98 percent stake, officials said.
The other 2 percent is held by private partners.
“YPBF has become owner of Shell’s share in Transredes at a price established by the national government,” Villegas said.
The deal didn’t include another stakeholder in Transredes, US company Ashmore Energy International, which was demanding a US$500 million payout from Bolivia in a case before the Arbitration Institute of Stockholm’s Chamber of Commerce.
Shell and Ashmore together owned 50 percent of Transredes through a joint company, TR Holding, before it was nationalized.
Bolivia has the second-biggest gas fields in Latin America after Venezuela. Nationalization of the sector is one of the central policies of Morales’ reforms.
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