Stop the corporate rip-off of Bolivia

By Published On: March 23, 2005Categories: Gas & Oil4 Comments on Stop the corporate rip-off of BoliviaTags:

According to reports today, Bolivian government officials have said that  US and European governments are threatening economic consequences, if Bolivia’s senate ratifies the Congress’ modest proposal to increase taxes and royalties on international energy companies.

More evidence if you needed it, that governments such as ours act more in the interests of multinational companies, than in support of the lofty objectives of tackling poverty found in reports by the Department for International Development or USAID.

If you have time, please write a letter to British Gas ( and/or the US or British or other European governments expressing your concern. I enclose a copy of my letter to British Gas. There is also good analysis on Democracy Center’s website:

Frank Chapman, Chief Executive
BG Group plc, Thames Valley Park,
Reading, Berkshire, RG6 1PT, United Kingdom

Dear Sir,

I am writing as a British Citizen and as someone who is living in Bolivia to ask you to clarify your position on the hydrocarbons law which has been passed by Congress.

Every day in the city of Cochabamba, I walk past many families sleeping in the streets who reach out desperately to me as I pass begging for a few coins in order to have some money to eat.

There is no reason why people should be begging. Bolivia is a country rich in resources, but over many centuries too much of its wealth has been extracted for the benefit of those who are already too rich.

As you know, the Bolivian Congress has just passed a hydrocarbons law, which is more modest than the popular demand for 50% royalties, but which could nonetheless ensure more of Bolivia’s resources are used for the benefit of the Bolivian people – particularly the six out of ten people live on less than $2 per day.

I was therefore very concerned to read a report in the Cochabamba daily Opinion on 17 March in which the Minister of Energy, Guillermo Torres said that his ministry had received several letters from oil/gas companies including British Gas. The letters had expressed concern with the democratically-passed `hydrocarbons´ law and had indicated that Bolivia could face an international tribunal for breach of contracts.

I would be grateful if you could confirm whether this is true. I understand from statistics quoted in Bolivian congress that between 1997-2004, international energy companies exported 2.14 billion dollars in capital out of the country leaving only 307 million dollars for the State. Do you believe this is a fair distribution of Bolivia’s natural resources? 

If it is not your position to oppose the wishes of the Bolivian people, I would be grateful if you could let me know when you will make public your support for the new hydrocarbons law –or even better the popular demand for 50% royalties. At the moment, the Bolivian government is arguing against the law by saying that international energy companies are against it. Your public support for the bill could ensure it is passed. 

I see from your annual report that British Gas’ profit increased by 22% to £1522 million in 2004. Giving your support for this new law could ensure that you are not seen to be profiting from poverty and help you live up to your commitment to “behave in a socially responsible manner.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Buxton



  1. Roger C March 23, 2005 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Hi Nick,
    anyone interested can follow up and post to – contact us – hot topics and post to the moderated board, I know I did.
    Anyone buy British Gas shares? – you could email in as a shareholder 🙂

  2. Nick March 23, 2005 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Roger. Good idea – and they guarantee a reply in 24 hours! Depending on the outcome, we may need to think of other ways to apply pressure (shares, press work etc)

  3. patricia April 8, 2005 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Roger, As a Bolivian I think that writing a letter to the Brithish Gas is a good idea (specially knowing what they are doing). I will do the same and I appreciate it very much. Thanks for your humanism.

  4. Monisha April 16, 2005 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Just to let you know I just emailed British Gas,

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