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Bolivian State Petroleum Corporation (YPFB)

Bolivian State Petroleum Corporation (YPFB)

The government-owned Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) was established in 1937 when the government of Colonel David Toro (1898–1977) expropriated the Bolivian holdings of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which had been given the monopoly to explore and exploit the petroleum resources of Bolivia.

Until the Bolivian National Revolution in 1952, the YPFB was unable to keep up with the country's demand for petroleum and its derivatives. A marked increase in output between 1952 and 1956, however, fulfilled the national demand and provided a small amount for export. The revolutionary government, hoping that petroleum could take the place of the declining tin-mining industry as the country's major source of foreign exchange, ended the monopoly of the YPFB. A new petroleum code allowed foreign oil companies to enter the petroleum business, and the Gulf Oil Corporation began to exploit deposits, and built a pipeline to the Chilean port of Arica. The Gulf concession was expropriated by the government of General Alfredo Ovando Candía (1918–1982) in 1969.

Under President Hugo Banzer Suárez (1926–2002) in the 1970s, foreign oil firms were again authorized, but those that obtained concessions were more interested in natural gas than in petroleum. YPFB continued to be the country's largest oil company and to refine all the oil processed in the country. It also exported natural gas to Argentina and Brazil. Popular pressure against attempts by the governments of Presidents Jaime Paz Zamora (b. 1939) and Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (b. 1930) in the early 1990s to privatize government firms, including the YPFB, delayed such efforts.

By 1997 most of the assets of YPFB had been sold to foreign companies. Brazil's national oil corporation Petrobras became the largest investor in Bolivia's oil development. However, in 2006 the leftist president Evo Morales (b. 1959) renationalized the oil and natural gas industries, but YPFB did not have the resources or the expertise to take over oil exploration and production. Consequently, foreign firms, as of 2007, remain an important part of Bolivia's oil sector.

See alsoBanzer Suárez, Hugo; Morales, Evo; Ovando Candía, Alfredo; Paz Zamora, Jaime; Toro, David.


Aillón Gómez, Tania. Monopolios petroleros en Bolivia la formación de sus ganancias extraordinarias. Cochabamba, Bolivia: Agencia Sueca para le Desarrollo Internacional, 2004.

Alexander, Robert J. The Bolivian National Revolution. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1957.

Lora, Guillermo. A History of the Bolivian Labour Movement. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Mitchell, Christopher. The Legacy of Populism in Bolivia: From the MNR to Military Rule. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977.

                                          Robert J. Alexander

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