TIQUIPAYA, Bolivia — Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales, who has nationalized some utility companies, raised the possibility Sunday of making all natural resource-related industries property of the state.
“Another policy ought to be how we recover, or nationalize, all natural resources, so they are in the people’s hands under state administration,” Morales told a social summit.
The socialist leader of South America’s poorest nation said that “utilities (such as electricity, water and telecommunications) never should be private businesses.”
He said that since the state took over the telecom industry under his government, coverage has expanded to rural areas that had never been connected before.
Bolivia, now a key source of lithium used to make batteries for electric cars and laptops, is a key ally of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Latin America’s highest-profile leftist leader.
Morales has imitated Chavez’s policy of nationalizing firms deemed strategic, and seeking to squeeze more revenue out of state assets.
In May, he nationalized Spanish firm Red Electrica’s grid in his country.
Bolivia is believed to have more than 50 percent of the world’s lithium reserves, much of which are found here in the salt flats of Uyuni, some 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) high in the Andes near the border with Chile.
Japan, South Korea and France, which had expressed interest in taking part in the first and second phases of developing the mineral extraction but were rebuffed in 2010, have since questioned whether Bolivia can go it alone.
His latest speech was likely to discourage potential foreign investors.
Photo AFP/File, Aizar Raldes