Chavez's "Master Plan",
Hugo Chavez is winning the energy war in Latin America. His three goals are
very simple. He wants the following:
-- to drive Petrobras and Brazilian influence out of Bolivia;
-- to drive Occidential Petroleum and US influence out of Ecuador; and
-- finally, to convince China to displace the US as Venezuela's
primary energy partner
Complete article by Scott Sullivan here.
That first "objective" makes some sense.
Brazil through Petrobras - which is partially State-owned- has been a critical player in developing Bolivia's natural gas industry in the 90's. They funded a good chunk of the construction of the pipeline from Bolivia to Sao Paulo, a move that was controversial (in Brazil) at the time. The expense was justified by Brazil's long established plans to rely much more on natural gas, and wean itself off oil. It also served a foreign policy goal of assisting its neighbor Bolivia, hopefully stabilizing it. And it further reinforced the strategic partnership Bolivia had with Brazil, that had started in earnest under Banzer to the detriment of the Argentinians.
For Chavez, promoting instability in Bolivia, creates trouble for Brazil/Petrobras. Chavez suddenly has more leverage vis a vis Brazil through his close relationship with the "Social Movements" in Bolivia. But there probably is a less ideological or geo-political reason behind this. If Bolivia is too uncertain a supplier of natural gas, who better than Venezuela? After all the country is the holder of the largest gas reserves in the Continent, and is a neighbor.