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Bolivian “Gas war” and Pacific LNG, Bolivia


In 1996, the former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada enacted the Hydrocarbon Industry Law no. 1689, allowing the privatisation of the State-owned company Yacimientos Petroleros Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) and the exploration and exploitation of Bolivian natural resources by foreign firms.

The Bolivian plan for exporting natural gas by ship from a Chilean port to the United States and Mexico was managed by a consortium called Pacific LNG (liquefied natural gas) made up of the oil companies Repsol-YPF, British Gas and Panamerican Gas, all of which were paid for by British Petroleum.

Bolivian citizens opposed and protested against Lozada's goal of exporting most of the nations natural gas. Lozada's Government encouraged the sale of Bolivian natural resources to overseas companies, and these companies used the new legislation to take control of Bolivian gas reserves.

The export of natural gas began at the Margarita gas field, the country’s largest deposit, located in the region of Tarija, which produced 700 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 30 thousand barrels of oil per day. The concession for exploiting this area was granted to the company Maxus Bolivia, a Repsol subsidiary, in partnership with British Gas and Union Texas of Bolivia. From there, gas was to be piped to the Pacific coast, and transported by ship to the west coast of North America.

An important part of the project was the construction of a gas pipeline passing through the Andean Mountains and linking the gas field with two liquefaction plants in Mejillones, on the Chilean coast, where the gas was liquified and loaded on ships. The liquefied gas was then taken to a re-gasification plant built in Mexico, near the Californian border, to be returned to its gas form and finally re-joined to the US network of pipelines.

The investment for the 20 year project totalled US$ 4 billion, of which only US$ 1,2 billion was for the construction of the gas pipeline on Bolivian territory.

In August 2003, on hearing of the Governments natural resources export plan, local communities and organisations began protests.

In October 2003, known as the "Gas War", millions of farmers, indigenous and ordinary citizens, COB trade union, along with community organisations, began widespread protests leading to increasingly violent clashes with Bolivian armed forces. By the end of the fighting, 84 people were killed, 400 were wounded and as many tortured. This opposition by Bolivians led to the fall of the de Lozada Government, and the opening of discussions about the nationalisation of hydrocarbons. On May 6, 2005 the Hydrocarbons Law was finally approved by the Bolivian Congress by Vice President Carlos Mesa, but protesters argued that the new law did not go far enough to protect the natural resources from exploitation by foreign corporations, demanding a complete nationalization of the gas and process in Bolivia. On May 1, 2006 president Evo Morales signed a decree stating that all gas reserves were to be nationalized. Still the exploitation of fossil fuels (gas and also oil) mixes Bolivian (YPFB) and multinationals’ investments while there is questioning of the current extractivist model by the Bolivian government on the contrary, natural resources exploitation is exponential, representing the main source of revenues for diminishing poverty.

Basic Data

NameBolivian “Gas war” and Pacific LNG, Bolivia
ProvinceCochabamba, La Paz, Oruro
SiteCochabamba, La Paz, El Alto, Oruro
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe export of natural gas began at the Margarita gas field, which produced 700 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The investment for the 20 year project totaled US$ 4 billion, of which only US$ 1,2 billion was for the construction of the gas pipeline on Bolivian territory
Level of Investment (in USD)4,000,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date08/2003
End Date05/2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesRepsol from Spain - The Pacific Lng Consortium was made up of the following companies 37.5%
British Gas from United Kingdom - The Pacific Lng Consortium was made up of the following companies 37.5%
Pan-American Energy from Argentina - The Pacific Lng Consortium was made up of the following companies 25% a subsidiary of BP
Union Texas
British Petroleum (BP) from United Kingdom
Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) from Bolivia
Relevant government actorsYPFB Yacimientos Petroleros Fiscales Bolivianos, Movimiento al Socialismo MAS
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFEDECOR - Bolivia, A Sud - Italy, Movimento Cocalero - Bolivia, National Coordination for the Defence of Gas - Bolivia, CSUTCB - Bolivia, Aymara Indigenous Farmers Organisation - Bolivia, Potos, Oruro and Huanani Miners-Bolivia, FOBOMADE - Bolivia, Central Obrera Boliviana (COB)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
It was a popular uprising
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Boycotts of companies-products


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Deaths, Other Health impacts
Potential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherBy the end of the fighting, 84 people were killed, 400 were wounded and as many tortured
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession


Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Institutional changes
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesAfter the two intense weeks of riots, especially in El Alto, the so-called "Agenda de Octubre" was drafted; it included major demands by the people:

- a new constituent assembly

- nationalization of natural resources (starting from hydrocarbons)

- empowering the people and their democratic tools
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Bolivian "Gas War" led to the fall of liberal de Lozada's government and path the way to the indigenous movement under Evo Morales. However, the conflict cause the death of more than 60 people.

Sources and Materials


Supreme Decree no. 28071: Nationalisation of Hydrocarbons

The Hydrocarbon Industry Law no. 1689


Monopolios petroleros en Bolivia. Taia Aillon. 2004

La recolonizacion. Repsol en América Latina: invasion y resistencias. Marc Gavalda. 2003

Privatizacion de la industria petrolera en Bolivia. Trayectoria y efectos tributarios. Carlos Villegas Quiroga. 2004

Perfiles de la protesta - Politica y movimientos sociales en Bolivia. John Crabtree. 2005

ARUSKIPASIPXAASATAKI: el siglo XX y el Futuro del Pueblo Aymara. Waskar Ari Chachaki. 2001

Microgobiernos Barriales - Levantamiento de la ciudad de El Alto. Pablo Mamani. 2005

Disperdere il potere. Raul Zibechi. 2007

Mal de altura, Viaje a la Bolivia insurgente. Colectivo Situaciones 2005.

La guerra por el agua y por la vida. Ana Esther Cecea. 2004

Dignidad y juegos de poder en el tropico de Cochabamba. CASDEL.2002.

Repsol, quien es? que hace en Bolivia?. CEDIB. 2006

Juicio de responsabilidades a Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada y sus colaboradores. Carovana Internazionali in Bolivia. 2005

First year of evo morales presidency. IWGIA. 2007


Geopolitica de los recursos naturales y acuerdos comerciales en sudamerica. FOBOMADE. 2005

El pachakuti ha empezado -Pachakutixa qalltiwa-. Si se pudo, si pueblo no es cojudo. Octubre de 2003 y las primeras acciones del presidente. Varios autores. Esteban Ticona Alejo, com. 2006.

Viaje a Repsolandia. Pozo a pozo por la Patagonia y Bolivia. Marc Gavalda. 2006

Impactos ambientales, sociales y culturales de REPSOL YPF enterritorio indigenas de Bolivia. Monitoreo indigena independiente del pueblo guaranì - APG-Itika Guasu, 2005.

Nacionalizacion de los hidrocarburos en Bolivia. La lucha de un pueblo por sus recursos narturales. M. Gandarillas, M. Tahbub y G. Rodrguez. 2008


Evo Morales nacionaliza por decreto el petróleo y el gas de Bolivia, M. Azcui, El Pais, 2/05/2006

Proyectos en gas y petróleo MÁS DE US$12.000 millones invertira Bolivia hasta 2019, D. Ramos, D. Oré, 07/07/2015

"Guerra del Gas", la insurgencia que cambió a Bolivia hace una década, La Razon, R. Burgoa, 16/10/2013

Other Documents

Demostration during the "Bolivian gas war" in 2003

Meta Information

ContributorLucie Greyl, Joan Martinez Alier & Talia Waldron
Last update29/12/2015



Demostration during the "Bolivian gas war" in 2003