Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that he was nationalising Transportadora de Electridad (TED) owned by the Spanish company Red Eléctrica Española (REE). Certain new sources, such as El País, have made a direct comparison between Morales’ actions and the expropriation of YPF a few weeks ago. There are, however, important differences between the two.
First, Morales used the same justification as Kirchner: that the Spanish company had not invested enough in Bolivia. ‘This company was profitable, but there was almost no capitalisation, almost no investment. In 17 years they had only invested $81 million,’ he said. Whereas Kircher’s claim that Repsol had not invested enough is difficult to sustain, Morales’ statement seems much more credible. Second, the tone that Morales used was much less aggressive than Kirchner’s. In his original announcement he said that he would be negotiating with REE to ensure that an agreement will be reached. Kirchner’s aggressive rhetoric and the poorly managed expropriation has caused significant tension between Argentina and Spain, and now Spain wants to impose economic sanctions. Third, Bolivia has the necessary expertise and capital to run and expand the country’s electricity network; the country does not require large quantities of foreign investment to ensure a good supply of electricity. On the other hand, the Argentinian government, by deterring foreign investment, has jeopardised the country’s future ability to fully exploit its reserves of shale oil and gas.