Evo's got a gun ...
If we weren't mired in Iraq, preoccupied with a manufactured crisis in Iran and almost universally loathed across Latin America, Fox News would be annointing Bolivian president Evo Morales as The Next HitlerÃ¢â€žÂ¢ and the marines would be preparing to land in La Paz.
Morales is committing a cardinal sin; he's getting tough with the energy companies:
Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered the military to occupy the country's natural gas fields after nationalising the hydrocarbons sector and threatening to expel foreign companies if they do not sign new contracts within six months.
Impoverished Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America after Venezuela, and the question of how the country should manage these riches has been at the heart of several popular revolts since 2003.
Morales became president in January on vows to exert more state control over the country's natural resources, reflecting a growing backlash against free markets and foreign investment in Latin America.[Ã¢â‚¬Â¦]
"We are not a government of mere promises, we follow through on what we propose and what the people demand," Morales said after signing a nationalisation decree at the San Alberto field, operated by Brazil's state-owned Petrobras in the southeastern province of Tarija.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia said officials from state energy company YPFB and the military began taking control of dozens of energy installations - including gas fields, pipelines and refineries - after Morales signed the document.Jan Frel tells me that the State Department characterized Morales' nationalization decree as "a proposal." Funny.
Make no mistake: it's a "proposal" that's fraught with dangers and potential pitfalls, not least of which is scaring away foreign investors on a massive scale -- the country desperately needs capital for its energy infrastructure. But this is a great Bad Cop move, and if these big multinationals have a bit of fear put into them, perhaps they'll start coming to the bargaining table with just a tad of humility and an understanding that they had better be prepared to share the wealth.
For some background, see my piece on Bolivia's new government from January.