China confirms $4.86 Billion loan to Bolivia for infrastructure projects

China’s foreign minister confirmed Thursday that the Asian giant would provide Bolivia a $4.86 billion loan for road, energy and steel projects, among others.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who said in a speech that Wang Yi had confirmed the figure in a meeting at the presidential palace, listed more than 12 projects to be financed by the loan.

They include two projects in eastern Bolivia: a steel plant at the massive El Mutun iron-ore deposit on the border with Brazil and the construction of the Rositas hydroelectric dam, which will be the South American country’s largest.

The Chinese loan also will fund the expansion of the Viru Viru airport in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, a project aimed at making that facility a regional passenger and cargo hub; nine road infrastructure projects; and a citizen safety plan, Morales said.

He said many of those projects had been planned for decades and would finally be carried out thanks to Chinese cooperation.

“China’s presence in Bolivia lets us free ourselves of any conditionality or blackmail by certain powers wanting to impose economic policies,” Morales said.

He said the Chinese foreign minister did not come to Bolivia “empty-handed,” noting that the Asian giant also would forgive 5.4 million yuan (roughly $800,000) in debt.

China is currently Bolivia’s leading bilateral creditor, holding $606.4 million of that nation’s foreign debt, according to a Central Bank report on Aug. 31.

Bolivian authorities said in 2015 that China planned to grant a loan package amounting to more than $7 billion for different development projects, although they did not indicate if the amount announced Thursday was part of that total.

Morales bestowed Bolivia’s highest honor, the “Condor of the Andes,” on the Chinese foreign minister in recognition of his efforts to strengthen mutual ties of friendship and bilateral cooperation.

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