Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lula Smacks Down Evo

At an event inagurating a natural gas processing plant, Lula had this to say about Evo Morales and Bolivia as a natural gas supplier

I am very happy. If Petrobras continues on this path, there will be a day when I will call Evo Morales "Dear Evo, now we wil leave you in peace to sell gas to whoever you want to, Brazil doesn't need any more. we are self-sufficient"
Its logical that strategically Brazil will continue buying, because for our own growth we have no interest in a poor neighbor. We need to our relation..its important that people understand, that when we fight less, we produce more..."

“Hoy estoy acá feliz de la vida. Si Petrobras continúa en el recorrido en el que está, va a llegar un día en que voy a poder decir a Evo Morales: ‘Evo querido, ahora nosotros te dejamos en libertad para vender el gas a quien quieras. Brasil no precisa más. Somos autosuficientes. Es lógico que estratégicamente Brasil va a continuar comprando, porque para nuestro crecimiento no nos interesa tener un vecino pobre. Tenemos que crecer. Pero para que tengas una dimensión de la relación entre nuestros países, voy a decir, y es importante que la gente comprenda, que cuanto menos peleamos, más producimos’”.

Not The First Time
Last February Lula in a very significant speech in front of the Argentine Congress....also had this to say in reference to Bolivia's request for a voluntary reduction in gas volumes in order to comply with Argentina's requests...

We don't have gas, those who do don't exploit it as they should.

El presidente Lula da Silva, que concurrió a la cita con unos días de anticipación, describió perfectamente la situación con la siguiente frase en su intervención ante el Congreso argentino: ´No tenemos el gas... Algunos que lo tienen no lo explotan como deberían´.

Et Tu Lula?

So what gives? Isn't Lula Evo's ideologically-attuned buddy? In public Lula is all smiles with Evo, praising him to high heaven. But Lula's policy is Brazil's long-term strategic interest in achieving self-sufficiency in hydrocarbons. And through Petrobras they are laying down billions in investments - at home and abroad. Specifically it is investing in natural gas exploration and production to achieve self-sufficiency. Lula's government has just passed a new natural gas legislation, strengthening the regulatory framework and ending Petrobras monopoly to permit competition both in downstream and upstream.

Bolivia was once considered a long-term supplier of natural gas and strategic partner of Brazil. At the government of Brazil's heavy prodding, Petrobras invested heavily in developing Bolivia's gas reserves and laying the pipeline to Sao Paulo. Bolivia now supplies 50 percent of Brazil's natural gas. But Evo's government after three years in power is unreliable, and unpredictable as El Deber says. Even after the rift caused by Evo's very public humiliation .of Brazil and Petrobras during the "nationalization" media theater, Evo has had 3 years to make it right. But through ideological intrasigence, incompetence, and simple idiocity the Morales government has mismanaged its hydrocarbons industry neither able to produce as a "nationalized" industry and uncertain and risky for foreign investment.

Lula's seemingly out of character comments might carry a bit of payback for the May 2006 "nationalization". Or it simply may be frustration at 3 years of trying to work Evo Morales behind the scenes to back off a bit and accept the fact that Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry needs technical know-how and investment from abroad. Evo only seems to have ears for Hugo Chavez, and Lula may have simply given up. And he can afford to. At the rate Petrobras is going it will also be in a position to export gas and oil in quantities rivaling those of Venezuela. Chavez should also be worried.