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Bolivia Nationalizes Electricity Companies in Hopes of Improving Rural Access

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Bolivia President Evo Morales has nationalized two electricity distribution companies owned by Spanish utility company Iberdrola in the latest of several industry nationalizations since Morales took office, which has included oil, mining, telecommunications, and energy generation companies.

Morales signs a decree allowing the takeover of shares in Empresa de Electricidad de La Paz (Electropaz) and Empresa de Luz y Fuerza de Oruro (Elfeo), Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera at the government palace in La Paz, Bolivia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. (Reuters) Morales said the move was an attempt to improve rural energy services in the country, adding that Iberdrola will be compensated according to the value of the company to be decided by an independent arbiter.

"We considered this measure necessary to ensure equitable energy tariffs ... and to see to it that the quality of electricity service is uniform in rural as well as urban areas," Morales said.

In a nationalization ceremony at Bolivia's governmental palace, Morales also announced the expropriation of an investment management company and a service provider belonging to Iberdrola, Associated Press reports.

Iberdrola, has operated in Bolivia since the late 1990s. Its main office in capital city La Paz was guarded by police on Saturday. Soldiers guarded the branches of the electricity distribution companies, marked with signs reading: "Nationalized."

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