You can almost feel blood pressures rising on Wall Street and in corporate board rooms. From Dow Jones Newswire, Jan. 23:
Bolivia Pres Names Cabinet; Marxist In Energy Post
Bolivian President Evo Morales on Monday announced his 16-member Cabinet, which includes a Marxist journalist to drive Bolivia’s energy policy and a street protest leader to head the new Ministry of Water.
The appointment of Andres Soliz Rada as Minister of Hydrocarbons could signal a tough fight for the multinational gas and oil companies operating in Bolivia.
A lawyer and former member of Congress who fiercely defended Bolivia’s natural resources as a newspaper reporter, Soliz Rada will be in charge of renegotiating energy contracts so that Bolivia’s state petroleum company has majority control and a significantly higher share of the profits.
The new post of Minister of Water will be held by Abel Mamani, a radical civic leader in the slum city of El Alto who brought down two previous presidents with violent street protests, and defeated a plan by a Bechtel Corp. subsidiary to provide privatized water at steeply higher rates.
And for the first time in Bolivia’s 180-year history, most of the ministers are Indians – including a little-known Aymaran, David Choquehuanca, named to the important post of foreign minister.
Morales also named a mining union chief to lead the Mining Ministry, and appointed three women Cabinet members. Some of the ministers are little known even inside Bolivia – such as Alicia Munoz, the new Interior Minister, in charge of intelligence, police and the anti-drug fight.
“There’s a clear intention to maintain a certain balance between efficiency and legitimacy,” said Jimena Costa, professor of political science at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres. “Ceding certain ministries to social leaders is necessary to maintain governability and not have people out on the street immediately making demands.”
In his inaugural speech Sunday, Morales blamed free market economic prescriptions for failing to ease chronic poverty, and said foreigners had looted Bolivia’s national resources since the Spanish conquest.
But he also repeated his pledge to respect property rights, and quickly got down to business Monday, announcing potential agreements with Japan to sell brown sugar and quinoa and potential debt relief from Japan and France. He also signed accords with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to provide 5,000 scholarships for rural Bolivian students, sell Bolivia 200,000 barrels of diesel and buy 200,000 tons of Bolivian soy each year.
See our last post on Bolivia.