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Bolivia takes full control of Chaco gas

January 26, 2009
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President Evo Morales announced that the government will take full control of Empresa Petrolera Chaco SA, a Bolivian subsidiary of the British company BP, after talks to purchase a majority share of the company failed to produce a deal, according to the Associated Press. The move comes just days before Bolivia heads to the polls to vote on a new constitution backed by the leftist leader. Much of the Bolivian economy was privatized in the 1990s in a bid to spur growth in South America''s poorest country. But the strategy did little to improve the lot of most Bolivians, and Morales was elected in 2005 on a platform of recovering state control over key industries. His 2006 nationalization of the natural gas sector remains the leftist leader''s most popular reform. The move raised state royalties on the country''s largest foreign energy companies but called for the state to regain full control of smaller companies that had once belonged to Bolivian state energy company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos. On May 1, 2008, Morales issued a decree giving YPFB -- which already owned 49 percent of Chaco -- another 30 days to complete its purchase of a controlling share in the company from then-owner Amoco, part of BP. Bolivian officials did not elaborate on the reasons for the delay, or say whether negotiations had continued after the deadline. Chaco was later transferred to the Argentine company Pan American Energy, jointly owned by BP PLC and Argentina''s Bridas Corporation. Bolivia''s natural gas deposits are the second largest in South America after Venezuela.

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