LA PAZ Nov 18 China will give Bolivia a $60
million loan, part of which will be used to purchase natural
gas drilling rigs, the Bolivian government said on Wednesday.
Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales, a fierce critic of
U.S. foreign policy, has deepened ties with China this year.
Last month, Morales announced the acquisition of six
Chinese light military aircraft worth nearly $58 million to
fight drug traffickers, and in September he unveiled a plan to
buy a Chinese telecommunications satellite worth up to $300
Energy Minister Oscar Coca said that roughly half of the
loan will be used to buy two rigs to explore for natural gas,
and the other half to expand the domestic natural gas
"The acquisition of this equipment (drills) will allow
(state-run energy company) YPFB to carry out extractive
activities," Coca told reporters in La Paz.
Bolivia's central bank agreed in September to lend YPFB $1
billion from its foreign reserves for natural gas projects.
Bolivia has the second largest deposits of natural gas in
South America after Venezuela, and is the region's main
exporter of the fuel, with all of its exports going to
neighbors Brazil and Argentina.
Despite pledges to invest heavily to boost natural gas
output, Bolivia's natural gas production has been steady at
around 40 million cubic meters a day since Morales took office
in January 2006.
The leftist leader nationalized the Andean country's key
natural gas industry in mid-2006, forcing foreign companies to
grant a larger share of their profits and more control over
their operations to the Bolivian state.
Oil-hungry China is moving to strengthen ties with
energy-rich South American nations, part of a global trend in
which the Asian giant is providing billions of dollars in
financing to producer nations to guarantee energy supplies.
In September, Venezuela agreed to send nearly all its fuel
oil output for three years to China in return for an upfront
payment of $16 billion.
Ecuador announced in August it will receive a $1 billion
loan from China, in addition to a $1 billion forward payment
for an oil supply deal with the huge Asian nation.
(Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Eduardo Garcia;
Editing by Christian Wiessner)