LA PAZ - China's development bank will lend Bolivia $251 million to finance the South American country's first communications satellite, according to a contract signed by both countries on Thursday.
China Great Wall Industry Corp will build the satellite at a cost of $295 million, with the Bolivian state putting up the remainder of the funds. The satellite is due to be launched in the next three years.
"This is the first high-tech cooperation 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.
Bolivian President 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 destabilize his government.
In South America, only Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have their own communications satellites in orbit.