Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Stooge of the Foreign Energy Companies

Can you imagine? A Stooge of the Foreign Energy Companies! According to the BBC, this is what some Bolivians think of their president, Carlos Mesa. And it says so right here in this article: Protests fail to stop Bolivia law
In Bolivia a new law is set to be passed increasing tax on foreign energy firms which President Carlos Mesa says go too far.

By refusing to veto the bill before a deadline, Mr Mesa effectively allowed it to become law despite massive street protests in the main city, La Paz.

Considering the taxes unworkable, he believed it would discourage investors.

The protesters want higher taxes or even the nationalisation of Bolivia's oil and natural gas resources.
The article and its headline are somewhat confusing, since it does appear that the Bolivian protestors have made some headway. In fact, the New York Times is now reporting that
President Carlos Mesa's government said today that it would permit passage of a Congressional bill that sharply raises taxes on foreign energy companies, a move officials hoped would defuse mounting protests from groups that want Bolivia to squeeze the big multinationals that have flocked to this poor Andean country.

But the decision by Mr. Mesa, who has repeatedly acceded to demands from protesters during his 19-month term, placates few. Foreign oil companies say the law is financially onerous and would prompt them to cut back on investments. The influential party Movement to Socialism, led by Evo Morales, has promised more protests because the law is too soft on the companies.

Thousands of Indians and miners continued today to march from several communities in the highlands toward this capital, with some of their leaders promising to take over Congress unless an even tougher law were approved.

"We are going to fight against this law," Dionisio Nuñez, a congressman with Movement to Socialism, said outside Congress. "The marches have to continue because in Congress, not all the senators and deputies defend the people. Sometimes they defend the multinationals."
Defending the multinationals is a good way to become known as a stooge of the foreign energy companies. And even though Mesa has given some ground, he's still considered a stooge. The BBC said so as recently as last Saturday, in this article: Bolivians stage huge energy rally:
Thousands of protesters in Bolivia have marched through the main city of La Paz to pressure the president to toughen a controversial new energy bill.
President Carlos Mesa refuses to sign the bill into law because he considers the level of taxes unworkable.

The law, already approved by Congress, would raise the taxes paid by foreign energy firms to 50% of their revenues.
Trade unions, landless peasant farmers and neighbourhood groups are demanding the nationalisation of Bolivia's energy industry.

Thousands headed to La Paz from the sprawling satellite city of El Alto.

Some waved the rainbow-coloured flag of Aymara nationalism and others carried effigies of Mr Mesa.

Our correspondent says they see him as a stooge of the foreign energy companies working in Bolivia.
And so on. As regular readers of this space will know, I've been away and I've missed quite a bit. I'm just catching up. So if this is news to you, don't worry. You can catch up with me.

There's a bit of background here: Bolivian row over energy tax law
Powerful indigenous groups are pressing for nationalisation of the energy industry.
At this point it seems as if the indigenous Bolivian groups are actually making progress against the foreign energy companies and the stooge who calls himself their president. Good news, or at least it appears to be, and it's the sort of story that's likely to be overlooked. In other words, it's likely to interest a lowly and nearly frozen blogger.

Bolivia! Think of that! One of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, and one where the indigenous people seem to be making headway! How about that?

What do you say, USA? Are you ready to start making some headway, too??