As Bolivian President Evo Morales embarks on a trip to Europe, where his move to nationalize Bolivia's hydrocarbon industry has generated debate. Morales' decree shook markets and incensed energy officials in Spain, whose energy companies are heavily invested in Bolivia.
But while the plan has alarmed oil executives and strained diplomacy, the "nationalization" falls far short of the radical take-over that critics have made it out to be.
Bolivia's indigenous poor, eager to regain control of the country's natural resources, were primed to hear President Evo Morales announce on May Day that foreign gas and oil interests were now secondary to the nation's needs. "We want partners, not bosses," Morales said in outlining his plan.
Energy companies and foreign governments that have invested billions into Bolivia were alarmed, worried that they may lose some or all of their investments. But analysts say that Morales may eventually have to adopt a more moderate position: Bolivia, poor and landlocked, still depends on foreign firms to get its gas reserves out of the ground and to market.