Bolivia’s got a gas problem

AFP Tensions are rising in Tarija, a southern state of Bolivia, in a dispute over the lucrative Margarita gas field. A judge ruled yesterday that the field (operated by Spanish energy giant Repsol) lay within the O’Connor province, enraging inhabitants of rival province Gran Chaco, who claimed the field as their own. The conflict  has already turned ugly—highlights ...

602415_070420_bolivia_05.jpg
602415_070420_bolivia_05.jpg

AFP

Tensions are rising in Tarija, a southern state of Bolivia, in a dispute over the lucrative Margarita gas field. A judge ruled yesterday that the field (operated by Spanish energy giant Repsol) lay within the O'Connor province, enraging inhabitants of rival province Gran Chaco, who claimed the field as their own. The conflict  has already turned ugly—highlights included the kidnap of 70 police—and the ruling will only make things worse. Worryingly, the authorities seem to be in on the scrap. The feds in La Paz insist this is a local dispute, and that it's up to Governor Mario Cossio to solve it. For his part, Cossio says La Paz has let the problem fester to punish Tarija for its push towards regional autonomy:

The government acted to bring pressure on this departmental government and damage it... The only crime [the region] has committed it that it does not share the government's ideological vision of the country and that it represents one of the autonomous regions of Bolivia."

AFP

Tensions are rising in Tarija, a southern state of Bolivia, in a dispute over the lucrative Margarita gas field. A judge ruled yesterday that the field (operated by Spanish energy giant Repsol) lay within the O’Connor province, enraging inhabitants of rival province Gran Chaco, who claimed the field as their own. The conflict  has already turned ugly—highlights included the kidnap of 70 police—and the ruling will only make things worse. Worryingly, the authorities seem to be in on the scrap. The feds in La Paz insist this is a local dispute, and that it’s up to Governor Mario Cossio to solve it. For his part, Cossio says La Paz has let the problem fester to punish Tarija for its push towards regional autonomy:

The government acted to bring pressure on this departmental government and damage it… The only crime [the region] has committed it that it does not share the government’s ideological vision of the country and that it represents one of the autonomous regions of Bolivia.”

Whatever La Paz says, the buck must stop with President Evo Morales. Resolving such confrontations are the stuff presidencies are made of, and it’s time that Evo and his cabinet showed their worth. Race and politics divide Bolivia, and huge gas reserves (the Margarita field alone is worth $45m, in a country where the average income is $3000) provide the perfect bone of contention. If the President can’t mediate between warring factions, then he isn’t worth a damn to his country.

May 1 will mark the first anniversary of the nationalization of the Bolivian gas industry. Now Morales has to prove he can distribute, as well as seize.

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