LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said he met in Costa Rica with a group of business leaders who “begged” the Andean nation to ship $500,000 worth of natural gas annually to Central America.
“I had a meeting (Thursday) in Costa Rica. Business leaders were wanting to buy gas from us for Central America at a cost of $500,000 (per year). It will be up to the hydrocarbons minister and the president of (state-owned energy company) YPFB to negotiate that. They’re begging us,” Morales said in a speech in the central Bolivian region of Cochabamba.
Morales returned to Bolivia Friday after attending Thursday’s inauguration of new Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and visiting Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana.
Bolivia has exported natural gas to Brazil and Argentina for years and has sold liquefied petroleum gas to Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay since last September.
Morales’s leftist government took control of Bolivia’s natural gas sector in 2006, forcing multinational foreign energy companies to become minority partners in joint ventures with state-owned YPFB.
The Bolivian president said he was surprised at the Costa Rican business leaders’ request, adding that although the $500,000 figure was relatively small it was still significant because it would represent an expansion of his country’s natural gas sector.
YPFB says Bolivia’s natural gas reserves will last until 2023, although private analysts say they will run out in 2017 at the current level of consumption.
The company, however, says it is carrying out an exploration program aimed at quadrupling gas reserves to 42.7 trillion cubic feet, up from a current level of 11.2 trillion cubic feet.