Chavez spurred Morales to seize oil: WikiLeaks

Chavez was seen as key instigator of nationalisation of Bolivia`s energy sector.

Updated: Jan 06, 2011, 12:42 PM IST

La Paz: Bolivian President Evo Morales was "emboldened" in his effort to nationalise his country`s energy sector by Venezuela`s Hugo Chavez, who pledged technical assistance and other aid for the effort, leaked US cables showed on Wednesday.

A US cable published by WikiLeaks from Brasilia showed consternation in Brazil over the 2006 nationalisation drive, which affected the Brazilian-owned giant Petrobras as well as other foreign energy firms.

"The image of Bolivian soldiers moving into Petrobras installations is vivid and offensive for Brazilians of all classes," the leaked cable stated, adding that then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was "increasingly seen as outmanoeuvred, manipulated and flimflammed by his `hermanos`, Chavez and Morales."

But it said Chavez was seen as the main instigator of the nationalisation, according to the US cable, citing comments from top Brazilian presidential adviser Marcel Biato.

Chavez is "widely considered in Brazil to be the guarantor of Morales` bold action”, according to the cable addressed to Washington.

It said Biato "observed there was a lot of Morales interaction with Chavez" ahead of the nationalisation drive that began in May 2006, when troops seized Bolivia`s oil and gas fields.

"It is clear now to the GOB (government of Brazil) that Morales was emboldened after hearing that Chavez would (a) provide technical help to get gas out of the ground if Petrobras bails (which the GOB doubts the Venezuelans have the know-how to do), and (b) buy the product," the cable said.

Petrobras, which has some USD 1.6 billion invested in Bolivia, continues to operate in the country but under strict rules under the nationalisation program.

Bureau Report