Spain slams Bolivia takeover of company as “unfriendly act”

President Morales accuses airport management firm of failing to invest enough in local business

Madrid / Cochabamba -

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Monday announced the expropriation of the airport management company Servicios de Aeropuertos Bolivianos (Sabsa), after accusing the jointly owned unit of Spanish companies Abertis and AENA of failing to invest enough.

In a rapid response, Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said Spain would rethink all of relations with Bolivia, and would try to drum up support from its European Union partners to respond to the Morales government. García-Margallo termed the nationalization an “unfriendly act” that “would have its consequences.” He said the government is studying “all measures to be adopted.”

“Spain does not question the sovereign right of a state over its resources and public services, but defends the view that any expropriation should be carried out with the prior payment of a fair price based on a fair and independent valuation of the asset that has been expropriated,” García-Margallo said in a statement.

The minister deplored the lack of warning about the expropriation and the occupation of the company’s headquarters by police.

Abertis is a leading manager of infrastructure concessions such as toll roads and airports, while AENA is the state-owned Spanish airport operator. Sabsa operates Bolivia’s three main airports, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

Morales made the announcement in the central city of Cochabamba, where Sabsa is headquartered.

Bolivia has now nationalized several Spanish-owned companies in the past 10 months. It expropriated four subsidiaries operated by power utility Iberdrola in the Latin American country, two electricity distributors in the regions of La Paz and Oruro, along with a services company and an investment firm. It also took over Red Eléctrica de España’s (REE) Transportadora de Electricidad unit in May of last year. REE operates the Spanish electricity transmission grid.

Sabsa manager Anthony Alicastro told Spanish newswire Efe that the company had been in negotiations with the government to invest $36 million.

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