The South American nation of Bolivia is second only to Venezuela in natural gas reserves in South America; third to the United States in the Western Hemisphere. The way these large supplies are managed, distributed, and moderated changed on May 1, 2006, when Bolivian President Evo Morales revoked all allowance of private companies capitalizing on Bolivia’s natural gas rich land. Until that day, private companies such as the Brazilian company, Petrobas, and American company, Exxon Mobile, had been allowed to amass much wealth by exploiting Bolivia’s bountiful natural gas reserves. Morales reflected this idea, remarking, “the time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources.” Going even further, saying, “the looting by foreign companies has ended.”
Morales statement had been expected but the further action taken, namely, deploying state troops to gas fields, ensuring the companies adhered to his edict, had not been expected. Bolivian reclamation of natural gas resources followed shortly behind similar action taken by their larger neighbor, Venezuela, which recently voided private companies’ drilling contracts at 32 oil fields, evicting them permanently if they would not agree to cede 60 percent stake in all future oil yields to the state owned oil company. Another South American neighbor, Ecuador, has also taken legal action to limit profits made by foreign companies while drilling on Ecuadorian land.
Morales and Bolivia cannot completely sever their ties to these foreign natural gas companies as much as they wish to. In some ways, Morales’ move can be seen as a sort of bluff, because, Bolivia does not possess the technology, geologists, or equipment to extract the natural gas from their sturdy reserves on their own. His assertion can be seen as merely a move that reflects the nationalist attitudes prevalent in many South American countries in the present day.
These ideas evoke feelings of pride within citizens of each country, empowering them with the desire to take back all these special resources that previous leaders had so freely given away for capital gain. To truly be free from the fetters of these foreign natural gas companies, Morales will most certainly encourage the scientific population of his citizenry to become more knowledgeable themselves in the methodology of exploration and extraction of these reserves, in order to seize not only control of the reserves, but to control the means of production that would keep the wealth provided by these rich natural resources within the borders of Bolivia.