Bolivia: Evo to free the land?

From Prensa Latina, March 8:

A call to return illegally owned lands was launched by Bolivia┬┤s President Evo Morales, while warning his administration will put an end to unproductive large landed estates.

On his Tuesday statement after assigning Saul Salazar as new director of the Agrarian Reform Institute, Morales highlighted the importance of solving the country’s land situation.

The Bolivian head of state said the new official is obliged to respect the Constitution, which says State land should have social and economic use and end unproductive large landed estates, especially in the country’s eastern zone.

Morales called for those who have received large extensions of lands as political favors or other irregularities to hand over them to the State, in order to be distributed among poor farmers.

The Bolivian president warned that, if they do not do it voluntarily, the government will rigorously apply legal rules to recover those lands.

From Business News Americas, March 8:

Bolivia’s government plans to study how to buy back majority stakes in public service companies – including oil companies Chaco and Andina – that were partially privatized in the 1990s, development minister Carlos Villegas said in his ministry’s newsletter.

The government will search for a means to obtain 51% stakes in the privatized firms so it can name their board members, Villegas said.

The government of President Evo Morales is seeking to take control of 10 companies partially privatized

over the past decade, local press reported.
The companies include national carrier Lloyd Aereo Bolivia (LAB) and telecoms operator Entel.

Petrolero Chaco is currently controlled by Argentine firm Pan American Energy, in turn controlled by the UK’s BP (NYSE: BP) and Argentina’s Bridas, while Petrolero Andina is controlled by Spanish oil company Repsol YPF’s (NYSE: REP) local unit.

The government has said it will initially look to buy shares in these companies but if necessary could pursue other means to wrest control away from foreign investors.

The state would also like to control these companies’ investments, the taxes they pay and staff wages, Villegas added.

Morales was elected on a pledge of ensuring greater Bolivian control of its assets, in particular its natural resources.

OK, so far so good. But is he going to kick out the uranium interests? From Free Market News Network, March 8:

Toronto, Ontario, March 8, 2006: Mega Uranium Ltd. (“Mega”) (MGA:TSXV) is pleased to announce that it has entered into an Agreement with Intrepid Minerals Corporation (“Intrepid”) (IAU:TSXV) in Bolivia, whereby Mega can earn a 75% interest in the uranium-molybdenum content of 16 exploration concessions held by Intrepid, while Intrepid will retain the majority rights to its priority precious metal targets. Any additional property with uranium potential acquired in Bolivia by either party during the course of the Agreement will be subject to the Agreement.

See our last post on Bolivia.