Bolivian President Morales Acknowledges Difficulties in Gas Talks, Blames Pipeline Operator

Bolivian President Morales Acknowledges Difficulties in Gas Talks, Blames Pipeline Operator

President Evo Morales complained of difficult negotiations with foreign energy companies over his plan to nationalize Bolivia’s oil and natural gas industries by Oct. 28, and singled out the country’s main pipeline operator for complicating talks.

Morales announced the nationalization on May 1, giving the international energy firms six months to negotiate new contracts ceding majority control of their Bolivian operations to the state or leave the South American country.

“We are not that advanced (in negotiations) because of difficulties with some companies such as Transredes,” Morales said Friday night, referring to the company that runs the country’s oil and natural gas pipelines. He did not elaborate.

None of the companies operating in Bolivia has signed a new contract, despite the looming deadline for the full nationalization of the industries. Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said on Tuesday that the government would not push back the Oct. 28 date.

On Friday night, Morales said that “petroleum companies that continue to operate have the obligation to respect Bolivian rules, especially the nationalization. Sometimes they don’t want to understand the new policies.”

Nevertheless, he promised next week would see unspecified “surprises.”

Among the principal foreign energy firms operating in Bolivia are Brazil’s state-owned Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, France’s Total SA, Argentina’s Pluspetrol and British Gas.

Bolivia-based Transredes is owned by stakeholders including Bolivia’s state oil company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos SA, or YPFB, British-Dutch company Shell and Prisma Energy, a Houston-based consortium that sprang from the bankruptcy of former U.S. giant Enron.

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