September 25, 2008
NEW YORK -- Mediation by South American leaders is having a positive influence on Bolivia's political crisis between the central government and restive eastern provinces demanding greater autonomy, Bolivian President Evo Morales said Wednesday.
The 12-nation Union of South American Nations has pledged to help prevent political collapse in Bolivia after anti-Morales groups launched deadly protests in the eastern part of the impoverished country this month, blockading highways, sacking government offices and seizing gas pipelines.
"Just its presence is very important," Morales said in New York, where he was attending the U.N. General Assembly and meeting with South American union members. "We'll see how this process develops. I'm very confident."
Also Wednesday, Morales offered reassurances to foreign investors when asked about delays in compensation agreements for companies affected by nationalizations under his administration.
"The investor has the right not only to recover his investment but also to obtain profits - including Repsol, Petrobras, all of them," Morales said, referring to companies affected by his energy sector nationalizations.
Morales also renewed criticism of former U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg for meeting with opposition figures before he was kicked out of the country.
Morales and his close ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela recently expelled U.S. ambassadors to protest what they called Washington's inciting of the protests in Bolivia. Washington in turn sent Bolivian and Venezuelan envoys packing.
Alluding to Goldberg, Morales said Wednesday that diplomats "should operate and cooperate with the national government and not with factions or with the opposition. The relations should be goverment-to-government."