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Minister Resigns Over Bolivia’s Retreat on Brazilian Refineries Take Over

The Bolivian government has suspended plans to nationalize without compensation two large oil and national gas refineries owned by Petrobras, the oil company controlled by the Brazilian government.

Officials from La Paz said Thursday, September 14, the plan was "temporarily" frozen. The move was suspended less than two days after Bolivia announced it would take control of the Villarroel and Elder refineries.

The two plants are owned by Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, and refine 90 percent of Bolivia’s oil and natural gas.

Relations between La Paz and Brasí­lia have been strained since early May when Bolivian President Evo Morales announced the nationalization of all foreign energy assets in his country.

Brazil has invested US$ 1.5 billion in Bolivia’s natural gas and oil production. But, following the announcement of the nationalization plan, Brazil said it would cut most investments in Bolivia.

A decree Morales issued in May ordered the state energy company YPFB to take exclusive control of domestic oil and natural gas production within six months. Foreign energy companies’ property in Bolivia was seized, and they were told to sign new operating contracts with the state-owned firm by November.

The nationalization program was temporarily suspended in August after the government acknowledged that YPFB lacks sufficient economic resources to assume its new role. President Morales pledged the program will succeed.

Apparently in protest against the Bolivia government’s retreat, the Bolivian Energy Minister, Andrés Solis, presented his resignation this Friday, September 15.

He sent a letter telling about his decision to president Morales.
Solis was the one who signed the resolution giving YPFB control over exports and domestic sales of the products made at two Petrobras refineries.

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