Morales warns that petroleum companies have their days numbered in Bolivia

Rosa Rojas, La Jornada

La Paz, September 14 – Bolivian President Evo Morales warned some petroleum transnational companies, “with a lot of dignity, strength and valor”, that he would not be held back by “blackmail” and that “if they continue using leaders, be they union or civic leaders, to oppose the changes and avoid complying with their commitments, their time in this country is limited”.

Speaking last night during the session of honor of the Municipal Council of Cochabamba to mark the 197 anniversary of the liberation cry of this city, he did not identify the transnationals he was alluding to, but pointed out that if they continued with these types of activities, he would assume “radical measures” against them.

“I am not afraid”, he noted, referring to the measures that the government could carry out against petroleum companies that finance mobilization in order to generate a climate of confrontation in the country”.

He added, “Bolivia, for as much as it is a poor country, has the obligation of ensuring respect for the law and its dignity”.

This is the second occasion, in less that a month, where Morales or high functionaries have warned about foreign interference by transnationals in Bolivian affairs.

The government is faced with diverse social movements that are blocking some of its principal projects, such as the refoundation of the country via a Constituent Assembly, which has been paralyzed for a month over the demand to make Sucre the full capital (shifting the executive and legislative power, currently based in La Paz, to this city), whose directorate agreed to recess of another month, until October 8, as a result of the conflicts and violence unleashed in Sucre over this issue.

Prefect retracts resignation

As a result of these problems, the prefect (governor) of the department of Chuquisaca, David Sanchez, allied with the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party of Evo Morales, presented his resignation.

Morales did not accept it and asked him to reconsider, given that Sanchez was elected by a popular vote. This afternoon, the prefect retracted his resignation, a gesture that the president saluted, recognizing the honesty and the work capacity of the reincorporated Chuquisaca leader.

Moreover, Morales underlined that his government would continue to work in favor of dialogue to resolve the “bi-regional conflict” between Chuquisaca and La Paz over the capital.

In a press conference, the president insisted that the national government would do whatever the two departments decided upon, once they had come to an agreement to resolve this conflict, which has historic roots going back to the 19th century.

He underlined that the government had sought dialogue a number of times in order to resolve the controversy, but it had not been possible, and assured that he is very “suspicious” that some civic leaders would become involved in this issue of the capital, which “from that moment would become converted into a completely political issue”.

Next Monday, in La Paz, discussions will be held, with the participation of the government and all the political forces represented in the Congress and the Constituent Assembly, in order to find a way to save this space from imminent failure.

Parallel to this, on the same day the leaders of the Inter-institutional Committee of Chuquisaca will meet in Santa Cruz with Cardinal Julio Terrazas, who they have asked to play the role of mediator in this conflict.

In his speech in Cochabamba, Morales said that he is complying with the commitments he made in this election campaign and cited as an example the nationalization of hydrocarbons, and the recuperation in state hands of the refineries that use to be in the hands of the Brazilian company, Petrobras.

He mentioned that whilst these plants were under the control of Petrobras, they refined 22,800 barrels per day. Nevertheless, in the two months since it has passed into the hands of the Bolivian state, they have refined 25,400 barrels per day, which is 2,600 more.

In other issues, the five magistrates of the Constitutional Tribunal received notification of three new solicitations of trials of responsibility against them for "perversion of justice", presented to the Public Ministry Committee of the Chamber of Deputies

Only last week, four of these magistrates were reinstated in their position after the Senate absolved them of similar accusations, promoted by the Morales government.

Rene Martinez, president of the Public Ministry Committee, affirmed that the executive “have nothing to do with” these new cases, rather, that those affected are the Prefecture of Potosi and two citizens from the city of Cochabamba.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported from Washington that sources from the US government, who asked to remain anonymous, assured that Washington anticipated the elimination of sanctions against La Paz as a result of the fight against the production and trafficking of drugs.

According to this version, the US believes that Bolivia did enough to not be included in the list of countries that have “manifestly failed” in complying with their obligations, established in international anti-narcotics agreements.

The decision will be officially released next Monday. If Bolivia was to remain on the list, the US could cut its cooperation in the fight against narco-trafficking, as well as funds destined for other areas.

In recent days, functionaries of the Bolivian government, including Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, have denounced that cooperation from the US destined for “humanitarian” purposes had been used to sponsor groups that opposed the government of Evo Morales, particular the civic committees that reject the drafting of a new constitution.

Translated from La Jornada

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