Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has infuriated Spanish oil barons by proposing a bill that would recover a majority share of a petroleum company from a foreign firm that has owned it since the early ’90s.
Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, or YPF, was founded in 1922 by Argentine military engineer and oil surveyor Enrique Mosconi, who intended to nationalize the country’s oil resources. The plan never materialized however, as foreign petroleum interests, including Standard Oil, helped overthrow the administration in a 1930 military coup.
Fernandez faces an onslaught of sneering criticism from the international business and political communities, which warn that turning a majority of the operation into a public utility would be imprudent, as it would alienate global powers.
But she is not daunted.
“We are the only country in Latin America, and I would say in practically the entire world, that doesn’t manage its own natural resources,” Fernandez said, adding that her proposal “is not a model of statism” but “the recovery of sovereignty.”
William Blake, the 18th century British poet who identified the use of caution in the name of pacifying bullies as follows, would probably agree: “Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.”
The Associated Press:
Fernandez said in an address to the country that the measure sent to congress on Monday is aimed at recovering the nation’s sovereignty over its hydrocarbon resources. She said the shares being expropriated will be split between the national and provincial governments.
The president complained that Argentina had a deficit of $3 billion last year as a net importer of gas and petroleum.
Spanish officials had earlier protested the plan, saying Argentina risks becoming “an international pariah” if it takes control of Repsol’s YPF subsidiary.
nestor galina (CC-BY)
A broken YPF lamp in the city of Las Heras, Argentina.