01.Jun.04    Análisis y Noticias

Brothers and Sisters,

As you know, we, the simple and hard working men and women of Bolivia are undertaking with difficulty an intense struggle for the social reappropriation of our natural resources, today in the hands of transnational corporations. We are writing to you because we would like to explain what we are doing in the hope that you will understand that we will need your help and we are ready to struggle with you.

4 years ago, in 2000, we struggled for the recuperation of water that had been handed over to the transnational Bechtel in the city of Cochabamba, under the same damaging and unacceptable conditions as your successive governments have handed over Argentinean wealth: assuring nothing else but profits for the owning corporations, allowing for rate hikes, control of the supply and abandoning any notion of “public service”.

With this experience, during 2003, but mainly last September and October, we began a new wave of struggles for the recuperation of our gas, which now is known as the “Gas War”.

Since 1995 the state hydrocarbon company, which had been built over decades with the labor of thousands of Bolivian workers, was handed over to foreign capital. Here, in these highlands, privatization is called “capitalization”, and among the consortiums that have taken over our petroleum resources are the well-known REPSOL, with Spanish capital, and also ENRON from the US.

Our struggle last September and October, which ended with the fall of Sanchez de Lozada, was above all a popular and indigenous effort to avoid a new step in the generalized plundering of that which we believe should be collective wealth and patrimony.

In those months thousands and thousands of Bolivian men ad women, Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranis, and the population as a whole challenged a governmental decision which we considered to be totally wrong: to sell Bolivian gas to Chile-under the conditions set forth by the transnationals- so as, on the one hand, to industrialize the Chilean north, which many of us still consider to be Bolivian, and on the other, a portion of that gas would go to Mexico to serve as fuel for the semi-private thermoelectric plants which are weakening the still public Mexican Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE).

In October, when we threw out the assassin Sanchez de Lozada, The entire people said to the new president Carlos Mesa: 1) We want a new hydrocarbon policy and we want to re-write the Hydrocarbon Law incorporating the knowledge and needs of Bolivians, and 2) We want to create a Constituent Assembly to build a country with room for all of us, and not like the present one, where there is only room for the transnational corporations and foreign capital.

For all the above, with difficulty, we continue struggling here inside, in the lowlands, in the valleys and in the highlands. Nevertheless, in recent months the government of Carlos Mesa has presented a new proposal for gas exportation, which now supposedly will go to Argentina.

Such exportation would be carried out under conditions similar to those that we have already challenged in the streets with a cost of 66 dead, more than 300 amputees and wounded, and dozens tortured and disappeared.

In these last days, the propaganda of the Bolivian government to confuse and try to convince the Bolivian people that exporting gas to Argentina is a question of urgency, is based on the affirmation that there exists an energy crisis, especially in the North of the country, in Salta and Jujuy, and that it is our obligation to encourage the export of gas “in solidarity” to the region.

From what we have learned, you, the Argentine people, and above all the population that lives in the Bolivian border area, are in fact suffering from a shortage of gas and there exists the threat that next winter gas and electricity will be rationed. All this worries us very much, and it is for this reason that we dare to call for a common struggle for the well being of our peoples, explaining to you our reasons:

What today is called “exportation of Bolivian gas to Argentina” is nothing but a business deal between REPSOL-Bolivia and REPSOL-Argentina in order to carry out the same plan that the Bolivian people fought against in September-October 2003. From what we know, REPSOL-Argentina has not carried out the investments in exportation and exploitation of gas to which it is committed, because they hope, creating a fictitious shortage, to pressure the Argentine government to raise rates. We understand that there is no real shortage of gas in that country, but rather a speculative maneuver of the sort that corporations are experts in creating, with the objective of making every cubic meter of gas cost as much as possible for each Argentine family.

Furthermore, we know that the Bolivian gas now being proposed for Argentina would have in reality Chile and Mexico as its final destination. That is to say, the same exact plan that has already been rejected. We understand that for every gas pipeline between the north of Argentina and Buenos Aires, there exist nine pipelines to Chile, such that, we insist, the final destination for gas extracted from Bolivian soil will be to supply the semi-private thermoelectric plants installed illegally in Mexico, which are making life increasingly difficult for Mexican electrical workers.

For all the above, we, members of the Bolivian Coordination for Defense of Gas and Life, say to you, Brothers and Sisters of Argentina:

Our gas is yours, Brothers and Sisters, but not under the conditions imposed by the transnationals, but yours and ours. This should be a common struggle since the corporations monopolize the resources of all without distinguishing between nationalities, we call upon you to support our next battles, and to carry out your own to recuperate that which has been looted, we are committed to support you in whatever you are going to decide to do.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Energy Integration Plan for the Southern Cone: we are willing to contribute to this but to an integration between peoples, according to the needs of the people and for the benefit of the people, not of the amoral transnationals.

In the following weeks and months we will continue the struggle and perhaps we will come to re-nationalize that which is ours. We hope that you will accompany us in this struggle, recovering that which was stolen from your own house, and as always in the action of solidarity.

Affectionately and Fraternally.

The Coordination of Gas

Translation: Clajadep USA