In the streets of the capital it is being seen as David versus Goliath, a nation reclaiming its birthright from the former coloniser.
Argentina’s renationalisation of the country’s biggest company YPF from Spain’s Repsol enters its final legislative phase today with the Congressional debate and vote, after which the government’s seizure of 51% of the stock will be formalised. Repsol retains just 6.43% of the company.
Only the Conservatives say they will vote against, and that on the grounds of what they say is an impending energy crisis the government has failed to foresee. Recent rapid economic growth means Argentina is struggling with a rising energy imports bill.
“We are enormously happy. It is an historical session, a very important debate because the state recovers its role as the guarantor of the natural resources to promote our homeland’s best interests,” said the Frente Para La Victoria or Front for Victory party’s Joaquin Palacios.
YPF, founded in 1922 and the world’s first vertically-integrated oil company, had previously been the cash cow of the army and politicians. In the 1980s YPF funds were diverted through a dummy company to finance, among others, the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, and the fascist P2 lodge.
Under President Carlos Menem the inefficient oil sector was reformed, with professional management given a freer hand, and exploration took off. It was privatised in the 1990s, Repsol paying $15B in 1999 for control.
Also at stake is a recent billion-barrel shale oil and gas find.