Bolivia: Nationalization without Expropriation?
Source Jim Devine
Date 06/06/20/20:55

Nationalization without Expropriation?
By Raquel Gutierrez and Dunia Mokrani

On May 1, Evo Morales announced "Supreme Decree #28701" that
establishes "the nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons." The
question is: Is this a nationalization that does not expropriate
installations, fields, or infrastructure? The answer can be
synthesized in a phrase: there can be nationalization of hydrocarbons
without expropriation because these resources were privatized without
ever being bought from the state-owned enterprise. This apparent
paradox can only be understood by recalling the history of the
specific forms of neoliberal privatization in Bolivia. It might seem
incredible that national resources were transferred from the public to
the private sector without any type of sale, but this is exactly what
happened. There was no sale, so now there is no expropriation.

The actions taken in Bolivia reinforce the national state, strengthen
the Morales government, and modify the terms of relationship between
the Bolivian state, its neighboring governments, and transnational
corporations. Analyzing things from the point of view of the relations
between governments, and between these and transnational corporations,
the "nationalization" restores the decision-making autonomy of the
Bolivian state, which in the previous administrations was completely
subordinated to outside interests and designs.

However, in terms of "social sovereignty," or the capacity of the
population to intervene in the political and public affairs that
concern it, many voices have expressed inconformity with the way in
which the action of national dignity was staged within Bolivia. The
"nationalization" was presented as a "gift" from Evo to the population
on International Workers Day, when the measure is really no more than
cautious compliance with the first step of the citizen mandate that
brought him to office and years of indigneous and worker

Raquel Gutiérrez and Dunia Mokrani are researchers with the Center for
Andean and Mesoamerican Studies (Centro de Estudios Andinos y
Mesoamericanos-CEAM), in Mexico and Bolivia respectively and analysts
on the region for the IRC Americas Program, on line at

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