President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to immediately occupy Bolivia's natural gas fields Monday and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they sign new contracts within six months giving Bolivia majority control over the entire chain of production.
Morales said soldiers and engineers with Bolivia's state-owned oil company would be sent to installations operated by foreign petroleum companies.
''The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources,'' Morales said in a speech from the San Alberto petroleum field in southern Bolivia to decree what he called a nationalization of the natural gas industry. The field is operated by Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA in association with the Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF SA and France's Total SA.
Bolivia has South America's second largest natural gas reserves after Venezuela, and all foreign companies must turn over most production control to Bolivia's cash-strapped state-owned oil company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, Morales said.
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