Morales: Bolivia open to energy sector investment


MADRID – Bolivia welcomes foreign investment in its energy and natural resource sectors but without foreign companies acting as owners, President Evo Morales said Monday.

Bolivia’s plans to nationalize its electricity sector and how this might affect Spanish companies in the South American country will be among the top items on Morales’ agenda during his trip to Madrid, which began Sunday.

“Companies that respect Bolivian norms will be welcomed,” Morales told a breakfast meeting of business representatives, politician and journalists. “We’re looking for investment, be it from private or state sector. We want partners, not owners of our natural resources.”

Morales met with King Juan Carlos shortly after midday (1000 GMT; 6 a.m. EDT) Monday and will dine with the monarch and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at the Royal Palace in downtown Madrid later Monday. He will hold formal talks with Zapatero on Tuesday.

Morales said Bolivia’s relations with Spanish energy companies such as Repsol, Red Electrica and Iberdrola were excellent.

He said Bolivia had still not decided on how to exploit its lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni flats but would be looking to negotiate with Spanish and European companies to produce car parts and lithium batteries.

On political issues such as Colombia‘s plans to let U.S. troops use military bases in that country, Morales denounced such deployments and said Washington is interfering in Latin America.

He admitted he was nervous on his first official visit to Spain, and added that this might explain why he had referred to Spain as a republic, not a kingdom, at Monday’s breakfast meeting.

“I never in my life imagined I would be in a forum like this with politicians, business people and diplomats,” he said.

After arriving Sunday, Morales addressed a rally of around 2,000 mainly Bolivian supporters — he faces elections at home in December — and vowed to defend immigrants’ rights.

 Source: Associated Press


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