President Evo Morales on Saturday signed an executive order creating Cementos de Bolivia, a state cement company to be formed with financial assistance from allies Iran and Venezuela. Morales signed the deal in the presence of diplomatic officials from both countries "in order to establish in the shortest time possible" two factories in the southwestern provinces of Oruro and Potosi with a capacity to produce 700,000tpa of cement.
Investment in the plants will total roughly US$225m. Construction of the two plants will solve the problem of a lack of cement in many areas of Bolivia, where projects are stymied by "scarcity problems," Morales said.
The leftist leader expressed his thanks for the technical support and cooperation offered by U.S. foes Iran and Venezuela and said his government wants to have commercial and diplomatic relations "with everybody."
"We’re not going to break ties with anyone. Even if some countries attack our national sovereignty, we’re going to have patience," Morales said in a veiled reference to the United States, which he has accused of plotting to overthrow him.
Morales recalled the "important visit" by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Bolivia last September, when the first bilateral trade accords were signed. He also announced his intention to travel to Tehran in the near future.
During Ahmadinejad’s visit to Bolivia, he pledged some US$1.1bn in cooperation assistance to the poor Andean nation through 2012.
"We hope to be able to announce that visit (to Iran) as soon as possible and I’m sure we’re going to sign many investment accords," Morales said.
Morales also stressed his government’s intention to continue creating state companies "because it is the only way to attend to the demands of the Bolivian people."
Since taking office in 2006, the socialist leader has nationalized the country’s main telecommunications company and required foreign energy firms to convert their Bolivian operations into minority partnerships with the YPFB state energy company.