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Bolivia nationalizes BP subsidiary

  • Story Highlights
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalizes Chaco petroleum company
  • Morales guarantees petroleum workers that their jobs will be safe
  • Military on standby in nationalization of BP subsidiary
  • Move comes 48 hours before Bolivian vote on new constitution
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LA PAZ, Bolivia (CNN) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalized the Chaco petroleum company Friday, taking over the BP subsidiary with the military on standby.

Bolivian leader Evo Morales speaks before parliament Thursday in the capital, La Paz.

Bolivian leader Evo Morales speaks before parliament Thursday in the capital, La Paz.

"With this decree," Morales said in a nationally televised address from an oil field in Cochabamba, "we nationalize all the petroleum business in Chaco for all Bolivians."

Chaco is jointly owned by Pan American Energy and the Bolivian Pension Fund, each with a 50 percent stake, BP spokesman David Nicholas said from Great Britain. BP owns 60 percent of Pan American Energy, and Bridas Corp. owns the other 40 percent, Nicholas said

Nicholas declined comment on the nationalization.

"We are aware of the presidential decree but cannot comment," he said. "We support Pan America's energies with any discussions they have with the Bolivian government."

Morales wore a white safety helmet with the words "Chaco nationalized" printed on the front when he made his announcement. The Bolivian president guaranteed the petroleum workers that their jobs will be safe.

Formed in 1997, Chaco employs about 90 Bolivians, the company says on its Web site.

Chaco is dedicated to the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, BP says.

Morales decreed in 2007 and 2008 that the government should nationalize various petroleum companies.

His actions Friday came less than 48 hours before Bolivians vote Sunday on a new constitution that would give the central government more power and control.

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