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Bolivia's President Evo Morales, right, sings the national anthem in La Paz, May 1, 2012. Mr. Morales announced on May Day that Bolivia is nationalizing the local unit of Spain's Red Electrica. (Juan Karita/JUAN KARITA/AP)
Bolivia's President Evo Morales, right, sings the national anthem in La Paz, May 1, 2012. Mr. Morales announced on May Day that Bolivia is nationalizing the local unit of Spain's Red Electrica. (Juan Karita/JUAN KARITA/AP)

Bolivia nationalizes unit of Spanish power company Add to ...

Bolivia is nationalizing the local unit of Spain’s Red Electrica, President Evo Morales said on Tuesday, a move that could further widen the breach between foreign investors and the South American country.

The unit, a power transmission company, is called TDE. News of its takeover came as Argentina’s Congress gets set to approve the government’s plan to expropriate a 51-per-cent stake in the country’s No. 1 oil company, YPF, majority-owned by Spain’s Repsol.

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Mr. Morales said the expropriation of Cochabamba-based TDE stems from the company’s lack of investment in Bolivia, an accusation similar to the argument used by Argentina to justify its takeover of YPF.

“In honour of all Bolivian people who have struggled to recuperate our natural resources and basic services, we are nationalizing Transportadora de Electricidad (TDE),” Mr. Morales said during an address marking Workers Day.

“We do this in the name of the Bolivian people and for the benefit of the Bolivian people,” he said, adding that he had ordered the army to take over TDE installations.

Red Electrica officials were not immediately available for comment, but a Spanish government source in Madrid said authorities were in touch with La Paz to discuss technical and diplomatic aspects of the nationalization.

In 2006, Mr. Morales used the May 1 holiday to announce the takeover of petroleum companies operating in Bolivia. He later nationalized oil and gas reserves to redistribute wealth to the landlocked country’s indigenous majority.

Mr. Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa are leading a push in the region for governments to reclaim control over natural resources.

South America is a major supplier of commodities, particularly for the emerging economies of Asia.

Argentina, one of the world’s top grains exporters, is expected on Thursday or Friday to get final legislative approval for a bill taking control of YPF.

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