China helps Bolivia fund satellite

2010-12-23 18:35

La Paz - China's development bank will lend Bolivia $251m to finance the South American country's first communications satellite, according to a contract signed by both countries on Thursday.

China Great Wall Industry will build the satellite at a cost of $295m, with the Bolivian state putting up the remainder of the funds. The satellite is due to be launched in the next three years.

Ties between the two countries have improved under Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous leader. The resource-rich Andean country is a natural partner for commodities-hungry China.

"This is the first high-tech co-operation between the two countries... and I trust our relations will have a bright future," China's ambassador to Bolivia, Shen Zhiliang, said during the signing ceremony.

The satellite will be used for communications and broadcasting services as well as for remote education and telemedicine projects, according to a company statement.

It will be named after Tupac Katari, an Indian who led an uprising against the Spanish conquistadors in the 18th century.

China's increased role in Bolivia marks a shift for the poor Latin American nation, which for decades had relied on US aid.

Morales, a Washington critic, has been at odds with the United States since he took office in 2006. Two years later, he expelled the US ambassador after accusing him of conspiring with the opposition to destabilise his government.

In South America, only Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have their own communications satellites in orbit.