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Mesa for nationalizing gas

July 12, 2004 at 1:36 PM

LA PAZ, Bolivia, July 12 (UPI) -- Bolivian president Carlos Mesa says he wants the state to take a bigger role in exploiting energy resources but not at the risk of running the nation into debt.

On a national broadcast Sunday called "The President Puts the Issue on the Table" Mesa said he believes they need to respect the contracts signed with foreign countries for the extraction of natural gas and cannot afford to expropriate them, as some unions have urged.

Mesa said that expropriation is a form of nationalization that would require the country to pay millions of dollars to multinational corporations.

"If I were to do that, I would bring the country into an enormous debt with no way out," said Mesa.

He also said that foreign investments are necessary, especially since multinational corporations are those who pay to extract the fuels while the Bolivian state does not have the necessary resources to accomplish this on its own.

"There may be 450 billion of gas below the earth, but it doesn´t convert into money until it is extracted. Investment is needed in order to do that," he said.

Mesa also addressed the unpopularity of the measures, saying: "It´s easy to play the demagogue. It would be very easy for me to say, 'Yes, we will nationalize through expropriation,' and I would probably be the most popular man alive. But I don't govern for popularity, I govern for the responsibility of the state."

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