Plurinational Bolivia cultivates new image as oil and gas state (in videos)

The Bolivian government of Evo Morales is enthusiastically celebrating two new finds of petroleum and gas this month, at the Boquerón-Norte well in the east and in the Lliquimuni block in the Bolivian Amazon. These findings come just as new presidential decrees have opened parks and environmentally protected areas to oil and gas drilling.  You can get a flavor of the government’s excitement by seeing some of its image production around these finds.

First is this wordless video produced by Petroandina (the Bolivian-Venezuelan consortium of state-run oil companies) celebrating the construction of the test well LQC-X1, which began operation last December. Preliminary results presented this week place this block as the place where large-scale oil drilling could come to the northern Bolivian Amazon. The soundtrack befits a cinematic drama, and the intent is clearly to make drilling for oil into a national heroic endeavor.

In this spot, produced by Bolivian state-owned YPFB, you get a look at the president’s ceremonial role in visiting the same site and as well as a very brief look at the environmental consequences of preparing a test well. (A more realistic account of the social and environmental impact of searching for and extracting oil is in Alerta Amazónica’s Lliquimuni, la amenaza del petróleo.)

In this local government produced news update, you can see President Evo Morales touting the income that will be generated by the Boquerón Norte well. Part of an already operating gas field, it is nonetheless the first discovery of new oil and gas reserves in the country since 1992. A different video showcasing this well is now running regularly on multiple Bolivian TV channels, paid for by YPFB.

Last but not least, YPFB produced this one-minute celebration of its power, international gas sales, and world-changing importance, proclaiming: “We are the energy motor of the country, and together we are part of the future. Because we have the ideas, and we will continue to change history.” The company is building a new high-rise headquarters on the Prado in central La Paz.

My extended fieldwork in Bolivia began five years ago as Bolivia was preparing to host the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (past coverage). Then, the image the state tried to offer the world as a plurinational state finally governed by cultures capable of defending and honoring the environment. While coca leaves and ceremonial garb remain, the Evo Morales shown twice an hour on BoliviaTV has his hands on a surging flow of oil.

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