LA PAZ – Paraguay-born Venezuelan businessman Carlos Gill Ramirez said he purchased half the shares in Bolivia’s Empresa Ferroviaria Andina a year after acquiring 50 percent of the country’s other main rail network, Empresa Ferroviaria Oriental.
“We are an important part of the operating group in Ferroviaria Oriental and (we have) 50 percent of Ferroviaria Andina,” Gill said in an interview with the La Paz daily La Razon, another of his properties.
“It is important to highlight that in both cases the other 50 percent is owned by Bolivian pension funds,” he said.
Oriental operates in eastern Bolivia, while Andina’s lines are in the western part of the country.
Gill bought the Ferroviaria Oriental shares from U.S.-based Genesee Wyoming in June 2014 and acquired the Andina stake earlier this month from Chilean conglomerate Luksic.
He was named chairman of the board at Ferroviaria Andina on Sept. 8.
Bolivian attorney Walker San Miguel, who was defense minister from 2006-2010 in the government of President Evo Morales, is listed as a director of the company.
The Morales administration once mulled nationalizing the railways, but has focused recently on encouraging the construction of an Atlantic-Pacific rail link running through Bolivia.
Andina and Oriental would support that project because “a significant part of the two-ocean network comprises the two big rail networks,” Gill told La Razon.
“Their current layout, with some variations, is a very important existing foundation to complete the project,” said Gill, head of the Venezuelan consortium Corimon.
He said he has his own plan to integrate the railway systems in eastern and western Bolivia and link them with the networks in neighboring countries.
“We will go from having modest railways in South America’s heart to become comprehensive logistic operators on a grand scale,” Gill said.