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Bolivia Completes Takeover of Natural Gas Fields

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Bolivia Completes Takeover of Natural Gas Fields

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Bolivia Completes Takeover of Natural Gas Fields

Bolivia Completes Takeover of Natural Gas Fields

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This past weekend, Bolivia's President Evo Morales pulled off what many said was unlikely. He completed the nationalization of several Bolivian natural gas fields that had been developed by foreign companies.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And moving now to Bolivia. This weekend, Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, pulled off what many said was unlikely. He completed the nationalization of several Bolivian natural gas fields that have been developed by foreign companies.

NPR's Adam Davidson reports.

ADAM DAVIDSON: It all started six months ago this week. The populist leader Evo Morales told all foreign companies that they have exploited his country and they had to hand over control of almost everything they own in Bolivia, or else they'd be forced out of the country at gunpoint. They had to do this by November 1st. To make things clear, he sent army troops to surround many of the gas fields. Things were ugly, and soon got uglier.

The foreign companies from France, Spain, the U.K., Argentina, Brazil and one American firm said Morales was ruining his own country. He was scaring away companies that had invested billions. Morales himself admitted that the Bolivian government needs these foreigners. The Bolivians, he said, don't have the money or know-how to operate the fields.

But at the very end, both sides gave in a bit, though it looks like Morales gave in the most. This weekend, he signed deals with Petrobras, Repsol and others. He gets majority ownership of the fields, fulfilling a campaign promise and satisfying his base of support. But the companies get generous guaranteed profits, equal, most say, to what they would have made with majority ownership. Even with those profit guarantees, some companies - like the British BG Group - said they will not invest in any new Bolivian projects.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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