In the midst of a ferocious tug of war between the Bolivian government and the opposition over the new gas contracts, the president of the state company YPFB, Manuel Morales Olivera, yesterday warned, “the sale of gas to Argentina is at risk”.
He was referring to complying with the convention agreed to between presidents Evo Morales and Nestor Kirchner in October last year, that hoped to increase the current 7.7 million cubic metres sold daily to around 27 million by 2010, when the denominated Gas Duct of the North East will be finished being built.
“If there are more delays in the promulgation of the contracts, there will be more delay in investments and we run the risk of not having sufficient production for Argentina... At the moment, the exportation of gas to Brazil is guaranteed, what is at risk is sale to Argentina”, said Morales Olivera to the newspaper El Deber, repeated this later on, with greater emphasis, in an extensive interview with Radio Erbol.
The strong content in the declarations was aimed at the Senate, dominated by the opposition, and which is adamant in opposing the approval of the 44 contracts signed between YPFB and the ten transnationals operating in Bolivia.
The right wing denounced that there were differences between the contracts signed on October 28 and those that finally reached congress, especially in regards to the annexes that determined “recoverable costs” and, therefore, the profitability of the companies. Those in the state petroleum company justified this fact saying they were errors “of forms”.
After passing without any problem through the lower house, which is dominate by a large government majority, the contracts were approved by the senate last November – at full speed and without having been read – in a session where the opposition did not participate. But the contracts had to return to congress given the errors committed in the writing of the law that enacted them, giving the opposition a new opportunity to raise some of the nationalist banners they had forgotten about in the 90s, leaving the government offside.
As Morales Olivera himself admitted, one of the points of contention is the number of blunders committed in the agreement with Petrobras. The “hard” annex was softened in the face of the Brazilian’s demands, because of the more favourable conditions achieved by Repsol (Spanish) and Total (France), but the already rejected version was mistakenly sent to congress. The opposition launched itself into finding the leftover and missing paragraphs, and accused the government of “ideological falsification” and “economic damage to the State”.
The parliamentarians decided to organise an investigation commission and have said they will call to give evidence the minister of the sector, Carlos Villegas, his predecessor Andres Soliz Rada, the ex-head of YPFB, Juan Carlos Ortiz, the last two moved away from their positions due to divergences with the executive power.
Days before, Soliz Rada came out denouncing that the contracts “were moving away from the spirit of the nationalisation”.