Everyone’s Duty: To Recuperate Our Natural Resources

Here is the speech Evo Morales gave on May 1st when nationalizing Bolivia’s gas reserves:

From San Alberto, in the province of the Bolivian Chaco, Tarija department, Bolivia.

From here we will express to Bolivia and the whole world that [this is] the struggle of our people, of the indigenous peoples historically on this land, the struggle of our ancestors such as Tupac Katari, Tupac Amaru and Bartolina Sisa and so many other leaders. 

Like our grandparents that went to the Chaco War to defend our natural resources, the participation of the armed forces in 1937 and in 1969, along with Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, in the nationalization of the natural resources and such a struggle, lately in the city of El Alto, in the Chapare, in the mining centers, in the urban centers; of peasants, indigenous people, social movements, the intellectuals committed to their country, the Armed Forces that perceive and love their country, and all the Bolivian patriots that love their country. 

And so we come here on this historic and important day to comply with the sentiment and priority of the Bolivian people to nationalize Bolivia’s natural resources and hydrocarbons. From this moment forward, from this date on, all the hydrocarbons within the national territory will be nationalized. 

It is an obligation, not only of the national government, but also of all the active forces in the country; it is the duty of our local and municipal authorities, the duty of our state authorities – of everyone – to take upon ourselves this defense and this recuperation of natural resources. 

We wish to say that our coming to government – as president, ministers and members of parliament that effectively come from the original indigenous peoples – was not because we have come here with vengeance, rather we have come here with the hope of the Bolivian people and the property of the hydrocarbons – the natural gas that passes to the hands of the Bolivian state from this point onward. These resources being under control of the Bolivian people is the solution to our country’s economic and social problems. 

Once we have recovered this natural resource it will generate employment. The plundering of our natural resources by international and transnational oil companies has come to an end. And for this reason we want to share the joy on this historic day of nationalization. It is the joy of a historic year, not only because of the nationalization of hydrocarbons but also the nationalization of the State. I want to tell the Bolivian people that we came to the Palace on the 22nd of January with a fragmented and privatized State, and that with the new Law of the Regulation of Executive Power (Ley del Ordenamiento del Poder Ejecutivo) we began to nationalize the State and now with this Supreme Decree we are nationalizing the hydrocarbons. 

I want to tell the Bolivian people that we are going to continue this process of change – the Constituent Assembly awaits us – and we have so much responsibility, so many duties. I want to thank, above all, the cabinet and the work teams that accompany this government – which is one of change and profound transformations – in changing the economic model. Here, the Capitalization Law* ends for Bolivians – here we end the auctioning off of our wealth, our resources – and thus I want to express my enormous satisfaction with the work that we are doing. 

To briefly tell you all, last night I was working with a hydrocarbons team until one in the morning – until one this morning – and with the cabinet in the Palace since five in the morning, and we came here to express our best wishes to our compatriots of the Bolivian Chaco, of the Carapari municipality in the Tarija department, and also to tell you that we are not just a government that makes promises – we are fulfilling those promises that we have made. 

What we have proposed, and what the Bolivian people ask for, we uphold and we carry out. We are also grateful to the Military High Command for sharing and taking upon itself this process of change. If indeed previous governments have used the Armed Forces for the benefit of transnational corporations, the Armed Forces have now united for their country, for their nation, for their patria, and for this they have been present in this time of nationalization. Similarly, the National Police force is with us here, with the High Command of this institution participating in, and providing protection for this process of nationalization. 

For the Bolivian people, on this historic day, the 1st of May, we are a government of the people, a native government, a government that more than anything comes from more than 500 years of indigenous struggles – and what could we have done in the margin of free contracting, in the margin of the existing minimum wage? The best gift for rural and city workers, for the professionals and intellectuals that work in our country, the best present for the workers is the nationalization of our natural resources – our hydrocarbons.   

From this moment on, in coordination with the Bolivian armed forces, we want to ask this institution to defend its sovereignty, its dignity and above all the integrity of Bolivian territory, we want to ask that it take charge of all the oil fields of all of Bolivia alongside the troops of engineers organized by the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and together with the president of the Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (Bolivian Fiscal Oil Reserves). 

We want to tell the patriots that are loyal to their nation, to their land, to mobilize themselves against any sabotage that some businesses may attempt. We want to ask our fellow workers from Petrobras that are here today to remain loyal to their country, to respect with discipline this legal framework, this supreme decree so that these resources may be returned to the hands of the Bolivian people. Expert oil workers are most welcome if they want to join us in this transformation, if not, they will be judged by the people. 

As president of the Republic, I call upon all the expert Bolivian workers that work for foreign companies. We are going to continue fulfilling our mandate: our 10-point proposal – and we have already accomplished 5 of those points with only 100 days in government. This is a responsible government and for this reason, as I was saying a moment ago, this historic day of nationalization has arrived. I want you all to help me proclaim: long live the nationalization of hydrocarbons! Long live the Bolivian people! 

Thank you. 

*"Capitalization" is "privatization Bolivian style" (José A. Valdez, "Capitalización: privatización al estilo boliviano [Capitalization: Privatizing Bolivian Style]," Economic Reform Today, 1998)

This was originally published in Rebelión.org  and is translated by Rachel Eckersley.