The Return of Neoliberalism in Latin America and the Role of Energy Multinationals

MNCs are beginning to look to Latin America as a major geographical locus for investment. Multinational oil and gas companies in particular are starting to take advantage of a resurgence in neoliberal governments supporting more deregulatory policies. The most significant of these companies is British Petroleum (BP), which is known for already having a notorious past of being involved in regime overthrows and environmental disasters, as well as the Norwegian multinational energy company, Equinor ASA, which has partaken in oil drilling practices in the Arctic that many environmental groups have criticized as being unethical. Executives from Equinor have announced that “30 percent of its oil output will come from the region by 2030” (teleSur, 2019). BP is looking especially towards Argentina as a major player in the future of oil and gas extraction projects. This is in large part because of the presence of the staunchly neoliberal Macri government.

Two years ago, the recently elected Macri administration revised the section of country’s Collective Labor Agreement regarding “unconventional gas extraction” as a means to foster a novel economic paradigm of “efficiency and productivity” (teleSur, 2019). A large geologic formation with large shale deposits called the Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow) is what BP is considering as the main site of the potential drilling (teleSur, 2019). This move, however, presents looming uncertainty of the integrity of the natural landscape around there. As yet, there has been no indication of any substantial interest, on behalf of BP and the Macri government, in environmental consulting. There are nature reserves on the Chilean side of the border close to Vaca Muerta that very well could be affected by the expansion of these new projects. Again, oil MNCs like BP have not had a good record on environmental concerns, so unless some sort of regime is put into place, there is no telling what might happen to that area in the near future. On top of that, as per Macri’s push towards a multi-billion dollar loan with the IMF while salary increases have stagnated, there has been an immense increase in general strikes (Al Jazeera, 2018).

There is no doubt that Latin America is following the much of the world in becoming more amicable with MNCs, but it seems as though the living conditions of everyday people are not being considered as much. Moreover, neoliberalism in Latin America has a history of slowing down overall growth, but political elites are convincing voters that time will be different because other nations are also cosying up to them. Nonetheless, as with the case of Argentina, worker strikes will proliferate while this dynamic takes place, which shows that prioritizing shareholders’ interests is not a sustainable political motive.


Al Jazeera. (2018). Workers paralyse Argentina in third general strike. Retrieved from

TeleSUR. (2019). Amid Surge in Neoliberalism, Oil Giants Prey on Latin America.
Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *