Over the past weeks and months Bolivians have been protesting against their government. The protests have been intense, but largely peaceful. It has been mainly students, farmers, working people and indigenous people railing against the governments
Unfortunately, I do see these protests as something of a harbinger of things to come. There is no secret what these protests were about.
I found an article from a Canadian oil consulting company named Petrel Robertson, that speaks exactly to what the Bolivian people are protesting against.
As the poorest and least-developed nation in Latin America, Bolivia is in dire need of the investment capital that could be offered through privatization of various state companies, foreign investment, and expansion of the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas production from Bolivia’s largest fields has begun to decline, and the government lacks the funds required to maintain production. As a result, the government is considering legislation designed to establish a more balanced participation between Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) and foreign contractors. President Sanchez de Lozada, elected in June 1993, is committed to privatizing many industries, including oil and gas, and hopes to attract $6 billion US in investment during his four year term.
That commitement has led to the protests that we see today. Instead of driving Bolivias economy upwards and helping improve the overall well-being of all Bolivians, the privatization has turned working and poor Bolivians against the Business elite.
Now Bolivians want to take back their oil industry and nationalise it once again.
Bolivia has proven reserves of more than 110 milion barrels of oil (15 years) along with huge reserves of natural gas, making it the second largest petroleum product resource in South America.
It is no coincidence that Venezuela and Bolivia share much the same recent history. Strikes, protests, left leaning governments taking power in the name of the poor.
Hopefully now that the head of the Supreme Court has taken over the Presidency and promised elections by the end of the year, the protests will die down and Bolivia will return to a more normal state. And after those elections, the oil industry will reconcile not only with the needs of foreign countries for Bolivias oil, but *also* with the needs of it’s own people.
Nothing can be gained by stealing from the poor and alienating those who are the lifeblood of a country. If the West wants access to the last precious reserves of oil then it must ensure that the poor are not exploited and dismissed out of hand.