Bolivia seeks Southern Cone energy integration —despite corruption scandals

Bolivia‘s state energy company YPFB last month awarded Argentina‘s Astra Evangelista SA a $160 million contract to build a natural gas processing plant at in Rio Grande in the eastern province of Santa Cruz. The plant, due to come online in 2012, will process will producing 380 metric tons of liquefied petroleum gas and 600 barrels of gasoline per day, mostly for export to Brazil. The original plan called for the plant to be built in 2009, but the project was stalled after a corruption scandal that led to the dismissal and subsequent jailing of YPFB chief Santos Ramírez.

In July 2008, YPFB and the Argentine-Bolivian Catler Uniservice consortium signed an $86 million deal for the plant during a ceremony attended by President Evo Morales. However, Catler executive Jorge O’Connor D’Arlach was shot and killed by robbers while arriving at the home of Ramirez’s relatives in late January 2009 with $450,000 in cash in his possession—evidently part of a kickback for the contract. Ramírez’ replacement Carlos Villegas revived the project after it was canceled in the wake of the scandal. (EFE, Dec. 29)

A month earlier, Argentine President Cristina Fernández attended the inauguration of a new nuclear power plant at Pilcaniyeu, Río Negro province. In her remarks, she emphasized the strategic importance of nuclear power for the region, and pledged cooperation in the nuclear sector with Brazil. (ALAI, Nov. 8) Bolivia has been named as a source of uranium for regional nuclear development.

See our last post on the global struggle for control of hydrocarbons.

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