Bolivia Hydrocarbons Minister's Resignation Rejected

Aug 24, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Bolivia's President Evo Morales on a late Wednesday television appearance rejected the resignation of his Hydrocarbons Minister Andres Soliz Rada.

Soliz Rada, also late Wednesday, had handed in a resignation letter after the country's Senate voted to censure him over alleged "irregular" dealings by the state energy firm, the hydrocarbons ministry said in a release.

"I present my resignation ... which (the President) can accept or reject," Soliz Rada is quoted as saying in the release. "Behind the censure ... are forces that wish that Bolivia returns to its state of semi-colony of the centers of world power, who are allied with the oligarchies that have exploited our people for 500 years."

Morales refused to accept Soliz' resignation, declaring "solidarity, support and respect" for "one of my best ministers."

Soliz Rada in his resignation letter had also thanked Morales and emphasized his loyalty to the "irreversible revolutionary process" of Bolivia.

Morales in his defense of Soliz Rada said that the nationalization of the country's oil and gas industry "will not stop," and insulted opposition legislators as "traitors."

The Senate had also voted to open an investigation into the dealings of Jorge Alvarado, head state petroleum company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, YPFB.

Morales on May 1 had decreed the nationalization of Bolivia's oil and gas industry, but in early August had to suspend the "full effect" of nationalization due to lack of resources at state-energy company Yacimientos Petroliferos e Fiscales Bolivianos.

The government last week said that YPFB President Jorge Alvarado had violated the terms of nationalization by entering into contact with an independent export firm.

Next to its internal disputes, Bolivia is also under pressure from neighboring Brazil to explain better how it wants to put nationalization into practice.

Brazil's state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR), or Petrobras, said Bolivia has unilaterally suspended talks of work groups on new production contracts and a compensation for Petrobras. Petrobras has invested more than $1.5 billion in Bolivia's oil and gas industry in recent years.

Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera is scheduled to meet Petrobras CEO Sergio Gabrielli, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, and Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Silas Rondeau Thursday.

Gabrielli Wednesday called for a resumption of negotiations.

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