for National Geographic News
Foreign energy companies in Bolivia this Saturday bowed to demands that they give more control and profits to the national government.
It's the latest wrinkle in a rising trend of "resource nationalism" in South America. Governments from Argentina to Venezuela are squeezing out businesses and even environmentalists to exert greater control over Mother Nature's bounty.
On May 1 Bolivian President Evo Morales sent troops to occupy privately owned oil and gas facilities.
Since then the Brazilian state oil firm, Petrobras, and Spanish-based oil and gas company Repsol YPF have been in talks with the Bolivian government.
The firms signed deals late on October 28 to avoid a threatened expulsion from the natural gas-rich country (Bolivia map, facts, and photos).
"With these new contracts we want to generate more economic resources to solve the economic and social problems of our country," Morales said at the signing ceremony. "That's our great wish."
That wish is becoming a common sentiment among other Latin American administrations.
Recently Argentina's top army officials announced a plan to move soldiers away from urban areas and closer to natural resources, including oil fields and freshwater aquifers.
"Argentina is a nation with great resources, and it is the army's job to provide security for that," said Col. Gustavo Tamaño, an Argentine Army spokesperson.
The plan would reconfigure the army into divisions covering natural resources hot spots, including water-rich zones in the northeast, oil-flush plateaus in Patagonia, and mining regions in the west (Argentina map).
(Related: "Conspiracists Allege U.S. Seizing Vast South American Reservoir" [August 28, 2006].)
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