The nationalization of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon resources, decreed by President Evo Morales on May 1, was a courageous and sovereign decision. The Communist Party of Brazil through this note expresses its solidarity to the people and government of our brother country. At the same time, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) supports and respects the firm and principled position of the Lula government, based on the constitutional precepts of Brazil, which honors the peoples’ right to self-determination and to sovereignty. In a note distributed the day following the nationalization, May 2, the PCdoB emphasized that the means taken by the Bolivian government was, first of all, an "act inherent to the sovereignty" of the country.
Sovereignty over natural resources is a constituent aspect of the concept of national independence. It involves a universal principle: each people has the legitimate and absolute right to decide, under sovereign conditions, what to do with the resources existing on its territory. These material resources should be put at the service of the economic, social and cultural development of the people who possess sovereign rights to this wealth. Historically, this has not been the experience in Bolivia. Two of its principle resources, first silver and then tin, were extracted from its territory, in many cases by means of open plunder, as was done during the colonial period, without being used to improve the conditions of the majority of the people: Bolivia today is the poorest country in South America. Its hydrocarbon resources were gradually turned over to foreign companies during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, when the country was a laboratory experiment for the application of ultra-neo-liberal policies.
The growing collective conviction of the Bolivian people against allowing this state of events to exist materialized in a long period of struggles to retake their sovereign rights to the hydrocarbon resources, which in the jost recent history resulted in October 2003 in deposing Sanchez de Lozada, better known by his nickname of el gringo [the Yankee], in the massive popular support for nationalization in the referendum of July 2004, and in the subsequent removal from office, this time of Carlos Mesa, in June of 2005. In this same way the current decision decreeing the nationalization of hydrocarbon resources corresponds to a triumph of the Bolivian people after an extensive period of struggles and represents a carrying out of the central promise of the electoral campaign that brought victory to Evo Morales. With this decision, the Bolivian government prepares to reorganize the YPFB (Bolivian Fiscal Petroleum Deposits), which had been broken up and privatized by the neo-liberal governments.
It is necessary to intensify the solidarity of the progressive governments of Latin America with Bolivia and its people. A superb example of this solidarity is the cooperation shown by the sending of doctors and teachers from Cuba and Venezuela in the framework of Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA in its Spanish initials). It is also appropriate to note the support of Brazil, which is looking for means to increase its cooperation with the Bolivian government-and which already in 2004 had unconditionally forgiven the external debt of this country.
The Lula government’s position looks to the highest long-term national interests. Finally, given the actual balance of forces in the world, of hegemony of neo-liberal ideas and of a broad imperialist offensive against the people regarding the bankruptcy of neo-liberal policies on the continent, it is an obvious constituent of the Brazilian national interest and of the National Project of Development to look for cohesion and integration of South America along its many dimensions. This includes the construction of an independent, cohesive and prosperous South American pole, counterpoising it to the unipolar domination of the world. The economic integration of South America, starting with the strengthening of Mercosul and the full constitution of a South American Community of Nations, is a central component of the Brazilian national interest.
The interests of Petrobras always correspond to the greatest interests of the Brazilian nation. The enterprise has a long history of service to the nation, shown jost recently by the announcement of the country’s self-sufficiency in the production of petroleum. Petrobras is a solid state enterprise with a high level of profitability. Its economic and financial health will not be compromised by the nationalization of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon resources.
It is a successful enterprise that can count on the sure backing of the Brazilian national state, and will have the ability to negotiate with its Bolivian counterpart YPFB with the goal of avoiding losses and also to assure the normal delivery of gas to Brazil, as has been promised in contracts signed in the past. In supporting the position of the Brazilian government, our people pay great attention to the memorable struggles of the "Petroleum is ours" campaign, which resulted in 1953 in the nationalization of the resources of our subsoil, and has been recognized since that time in our federal Constitution. Also having great historic value are the more recent struggles against the breakup of the state monopoly on petroleum, promoted by the FHC (Fernando Henrique Cardoso) government, as well as the attempts to privatize this enterprise.
The existence of broad and diversified energy resources is an imperative for the economic development of Brazil. Therefore, it is necessary to record the effort of the current government to resume long-term strategic planning for the energy sector of the country-abolished by the past government, which is responsible for the black-out in the country. The Lula government launched the 2006-2015 Ten Year Plan for Electrical Energy and the National Energy Plan 2030, thereby promoting the strengthening of Petrobras and Eletrobras.
We should recall that the Fernando Henrique government was responsible for the dependency of Brazil on Bolivian gas. Under this government decisions were taken to construct the Brazil-Bolivia Gas Pipeline and carry out the greater part of investments of Petrobras in Bolivia-the $1 billion dollars of Petrobras investments in Bolivia between 1996 and 2005-only $90 million in investments were made by the current government. It was the past government also that stimulated the conversion of an important part of the industrial sector of Sao Paulo to the use of natural gas energy-leading to the current structural dependence. On the other hand, the Lula government is carrying out an effort to diversify the energy sources of the country. As part of this effort and to promote continental integration, the current government made commitments related to the construction of a South American gas pipeline.
The nationalization of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon resources was the excuse for certain political, economic and social sectors to unleash, stridently and with broad support from the media, a campaign of open opposition to the option raised by the Lula government to prioritize, regarding its foreign relations, cohesion and political, commercial, economic and physical integration of South America. Essentially this campaign-which has strong neo-liberal ideological content and is openly pro-imperialist-proposes a freeze in relations with neighbor countries and a reorientation in the sense of regressing to the type of foreign policy that was defeated in 2002, one that assumes a passive attitude and subordinates Brazil in its relations with the rich countries, in an acceptance of the FTAA (Free Trade Alliance of the Americas), a profoundly asymmetrical and neo-colonial relation, and finally, in the complete adhesion to neo-liberal hegemony.
The neo-liberal right-wing opposition to the Lula government, to place the question in the terms in which it has been presented, can be explained without equivocation as the direct representative of the interests of U.S. imperialism in Brazil. Upon the refusal of the Brazilian government to use "the big stick" and break diplomatic relations with La Paz, this neo-liberal right wing exposes its irresponsible, provocative and aggressive face.
The basis for its ideological propaganda is to look for a way to separate the progressive forces of Latin America, provoking intrigues of all types, pulling out of its dusty trunk theses about the supposed resurgence of a "neo-populism" and repeating ad nauseam theses over the existence of "two lefts" in the region: one "responsible" left that "respects contracts" and the other statist, populist.
It takes advantage of a factual, real heterogeneous nature of the progressive forces and the different national realities to ignore the jost relevant fact regarding those new political forces leading the national governments or the general thrust common to those governments, that of giving priority to regional integration, suspending privatizations and looking for ways to free themselves from the tutelage of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to prioritize policies that bring social gains to the population and adopt measures to counter neo-liberal ideas.
The PCdoB reiterates its support for the Lula government’s foreign policy, whose trademark is the defense of the genuine national interests and of developmental integration and solidarity of South America, repudiating the servile attitude of the neo-liberal rightwing and its means of communication that propose steps backward. The PCdoB calls upon the Brazilian people, working through its organizations and movements, to mobilize in solidarity with the Bolivian people and in support of the foreign policy of the Lula government. The relations between Brazil and Bolivia-a country with which we share the largest border-will develop not on the basis of conflict but through cooperation and negotiation. The phase where Brazil caters to the whims of the rich countries and is arrogant toward the poor countries, a trademark of the former government, already belongs to the past.
São Paulo, May 13, 2006.
The Central Committee of the
Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB)
Translation: John Catalinotto