British oil giant BP PLC used to have a subsidiary in Venezuela. Now, it has a minority interest in a joint venture with the Venezuelan government of leftist Hugo Chavez. For giving up 51% of its subsidiary, BP received no compensation. It was simply nation-

alized by government fiat. "We hope that our ownership share gives us some influence on policies," notes Robert J. Novaria, director of BP's global treasury services for the Americas. "The economic landscape there is still being created. Some of the other oil companies decided not to play that game and pulled out, but we're still trying to figure out how to manage our situation in Venezuela. It's very discomforting."

Admittedly, that's a worst-case scenario, but experts agree that Latin American countries have given up huge opportunities to benefit from globalization as their politics have moved progressively left. Despite Latin America's proximity to the U.S., countries there–Brazil perhaps being an exception–have fallen off the radar screens of multinational corporations, replaced by Asian powerhouses. "It's hard to estimate the potential loss of investment, but it would be great," notes Eugenio Aleman, senior economist and Latin America specialist at Wells Fargo & Co. "With commodity prices high, Latin America could potentially be cashing in big time, but it isn't happening."

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