RIO DE JANEIRO (EFE) – Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca says that the transferral of
technology should be written into the new contracts with foreign oil and natural gas corporations in order to reduce his country’s dependency in this field.
In an interview published Friday in the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo, the foreign minister said that ownership of natural resources should belong to the nation where they are found, but explained that this does not mean confiscating the companies that extract and process them.
Socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was inaugurated last Sunday, has promised to nationalize the country’s vital natural gas and oil industries, though he says it will be done in a manner that is not confiscatory. Some of the multinationals that in recent years have found and extracted Bolivia’s abundant natural gas have suspended investment in the Andean nation, preferring to wait and see what form the nationalization will take.
“We need foreign investment. But we are not going to accept that multinationals take advantage of us,” the foreign minister said, adding that his country seeks relations based on equality and respect. After recognizing that Bolivia by itself does not have the means of making use of its resources, he said that at present his country depends on foreign technology.
Choquehuanca said that the principle of mutual collaboration should be applied as it is in indigenous communities, but he did not specify how profits from the extraction and processing of mineral resources would be shared among the government and the multinationals, saying only that both would have to be satisfied by the arrangement.
In his opinion, Bolivia’s dependency would end with the transferral of technology required by an article of the new contracts with multinational corporations.
Choquehuanca, 44, a former union leader, said that this position defends “fair trade” rather than “free trade.”
With regard to relations with the United States, he said that, more than being against Americans, the government is “against capitalism” and “against any dictatorship of money.”
Choquehuanca defended the growing of coca leaves as a deep-rooted element of indigenous culture, and said that, while it is true that some of Bolivia’s production goes to the illegal drug trade, he recalled that no cocaine is produced in his country.
Of the coca leaf grown in Bolivia that is not consumed in the traditional way – by chewing it as a mild stimulant – most is turned into a “paste” that eventually is refined into cocaine in other places, principally Colombia.