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What is Behind Bolivia’s Latest Energy Sector Nationalization?

LatinAmerica Energy Advisor, May 14-18, 2012

The expropriation of the Bolivian subsidiary of Spain’s Red Eléctrica de España (REE) is an isolated episode which is explained by the government’s need to gain ground in the middle of a series of social conflicts that has damaged its popularity.

Politically, Morales appealed to the typical symbols of his government: on May Day, with a nationalization decree, taking control of physical facilities, accompanied by a heavily armed military group.

Legally, the Constitution provides for state control of the energy grid and REE had a monopoly on the distribution of energy in six (out of nine) interconnected departments. Urban distributors and some private generators remain out of state control.

Economically, REE was taking its finances out of its Bolivian branch, as has been reported in the Spanish press, and it did not invest, knowing that it would be nationalized at some point.

However, the problem with Bolivia’s electricity sector wasn’t distribution, but rather that generation is almost entirely state-run: the supply and demand balance is precarious and blackouts have become frequent. In turn, the expansion of the whole country’s electrical grid requires major investments that the state isn’t in the condition to carry out.

As for the expropriation of YPF, Argentina is different. Forgetting the method, it is a structural measure with clear objectives of self-sufficiency and control of the shale gas reserves.

Francesco Zaratti,

La Paz-based energy analyst and former energy advisor to ex-President Carlos Mesa

Sigue leyendo para ver la traducción libre


Que hay detras de la reciente nacionalizacion del sector electrico en Bolivia

La expropiación de la filial boliviana de la empresa Red Eléctrica Española (REE) es un episodio aislado, que se explica por la necesidad del Gobierno de Evo Morales Ayma (EMA) de recuperar terreno en medio de una serie de conflictos sociales que han deteriorado su popularidad.

Políticamente, EMA lo hace apelando a la simbología típica de su Gobierno: en el Día del Trabajo, con un decreto de nacionalización, mediante la toma física de las instalaciones, acompañado de un grupo militar fuertemente armado.

Jurídicamente, la Constitución prevé el control estatal de la cadena energética y REE mantenía el monopolio del transporte de la electricidad en los seis (de nueve) departamentos interconectados. Quedan aún fuera del control estatal las distribuidoras urbanas y algunas generadoras privadas.

Económicamente, REI estaba vaciando las finanzas de su sucursal boliviana, como se ha denunciado en la prensa española, y ya no invertía, ante la certeza de ser nacionalizada en algún momento.

Sin embargo, los problemas del sector eléctrico boliviano no están en la distribución sino en la generación que pertenece casi enteramente al Estado: la oferta equilibra críticamente la demanda y los black-out se han vuelto frecuentes. A su vez, la expansión de la interconexión eléctrica a todo el país requiere de fuertes inversiones que el Estado no está en condición de realizar.

La expropiación de YPF – Argentina es diferente: olvidando las formas, se trata de una medida estructural con objetivos claros de autoabastecimiento y de control de las reservas de shale gas.

  1. junio 6, 2012 en 10:07 am

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. julio 14, 2012 en 5:13 pm

    Interesting opinion.
    As Gustavo Bequer beautifully paraphrased years ago: It’s all in the eye of the beholder…
    Since for many Bolivians, myself included, we certainly see this nationalization with good eyes.
    It reminds me the history of our emancipation.
    When Napoleon was attacking the Spanish crown, all the “colonies” in the, so called “New world” started to rise up and say good bye to the spaniards. I always wondered: Would it be possible for us, if Napoleon wouldn’t attack Spain first? Since the crown was dealing against such threat, its influence down in their colonies was weakened, and it helped a lot to the uprising movements that popped up all at once.
    I see some similar trends here, unfortunaly for the spanish people, the bankers have stolen a lot of money from the people’s hand, and now there is a huge crisis coming up. Again, their influence is weakened, so, should we, Bolivia, a tiny but rebel country, take advantage and claim what is a strategic company for us?
    It’s good you mention that our demand for electricity is going up, That means that more products and services are needed, it’s a basic indicator of the economic activity in a specific society. What it’s missing, is to mention that due technical difficulties on 2 generators, our threshold was lowered and unfortunately we did have shortages during the last months.

    For me, it reminds me those “growth-pains” some of us had when growing, it’s a growth sign.
    And those shortages, at least from the perspective and the research I’ve done, was due a higher demand, a constant increase on energy demand, which, again, it’s a good sign.

    Last but not least, energy production, it always should be controlled by the state, shouldn’t it? I cannot imagine our energy production in foreign hands, not beacuse I’m xenophobic, since I am not, but because we cannot trust in the free market rules where the main goal is to get the greater profit at all costs! We have a revolution here, a pacific, cultural, and popular revolution, and yes, our energy production shall remain within the state, not anyone else.
    Best regards,
    Jaime Teran, MD.

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