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Bolivia - exclusive interview

Be partners not predators, Morales warns French firms on Paris visit

Article published on the 2009-02-18 Latest update 2009-02-19 11:52 TU

Bolivian President Evo Morales at the Elysee Palace(Photo: AFP)

Bolivian President Evo Morales at the Elysee Palace
(Photo: AFP)

Bolivian President Evo Morales met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and bosses of French energy giant Total in Paris on Tuesday. They discussed the exploitation of Bolivian gas fields, the use of lithium reserves for electric cars and the sale of helicopters to help in the fight against drug smugglers.

Executives from the French oil company, Total met with Morales for discussions about the development of Bolivia’s gas fields, the second largest in South America.

The company, which has its headquarters in Paris, is hoping to explore and exploit the gas fields which Morales nationalised in 2006.

No agreements were announced after the meetings, and Morales is clear about the kind of deal he expects.

“What we are asking for, is to underwrite the investment, if that is not done on a contractual basis, the Bolivian government has every right to consider other options,” Morales told RFI's Spanish-language service.

Exclusive: Evo Morales, Bolivian President


Meanwhile, Bolloré, a French conglomerate, which was involved in the launch of digital television in France, discussed the possibility of using Bolivia’s lithium reserves for electric car batteries.

Bolivia has the biggest concentration of lithium of any country in the world, with around 5.4 million tons deposited in desert areas. It is thought the French firm wants to take advantage of this to help manufacture batteries for its electric vehicles, such as the Bolloré Blue Car.

Morales is interested in purchasing helicopters to help in the fight against drug traffickers. His country is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine after Peru and Colombia.

In talks with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company - EADS, he showed interest in the civilian Eurocopter Super Puma, and military Cougar, both medium-size utility helicopters. He also talked with Airbus about the purchase of a jet for his presidential travels.

After his meetings Morales discussed South American relations with the US and his expectations of President Barack Obama.

“He should not let down the Latinos, who made Obama’s victory possible and will not mislead us on reforms and economic changes,” he told RFI's Spanish-language service. “We expect him to improve relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries.”

Exclusive: Evo Morales, Bolivian President


Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state advised the US that his country’s relationship with Russia was something they should not underestimate.

“Russia’s presence in Latin America is very significant, and I hope this will encourage Obama to develop a good relationship – Latin American countries will never be the backyard of the US,” says Morales.

His comments came after a visit to Moscow on Monday, where he met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Morales announced that Sarkozy would visit Bolivia in September.