LA PAZ – Spain’s foreign minister said here Monday that Spanish companies need have no “fear” of investing in Bolivia after receiving guarantees from the Evo Morales government that the future law on investments will provide greater long-term judicial protection and security.
Trinidad Jimenez transmitted that message at a joint press conference with Bolivian counterpart David Choquehuanca at the Foreign Ministry in La Paz.
“We have no reason for any kind of fear,” she said, adding that the future investment law will provide “certainty and security” to Spanish companies.
A group of Spanish executives had expressed to Jimenez their concern about Bolivia’s nationalization plans at a meeting in the Spanish ambassador’s residence in La Paz before the meeting with Choquehuanca.
The darkest clouds seemed to be gathering over companies like Abertis, which operates airports in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba; banking giant BBVA, which administers a pension fund; and Red Electrica and Iberdrola, after Morales began nationalizing the electricity sector this year.
The companies also complain that the Bolivian legal structure forces them to renounce their right of appeal to international organizations to resolve disputes through arbitration.
According to Jimenez, Spain “at all time respects” the rules imposed by the Andean nation, but in a way that dispels concerns and “guarantees the permanence” of the companies in Bolivia, a country with some of the biggest mineral and hydrocarbon deposits in the region.
“For the moment, all the investments that have been made here have stayed here,” the minister said, recalling that there have already been legal cases that were successfully resolved, such as the one affecting the Spanish oil company Repsol shortly after Morales took power in 2006.
The Bolivian foreign minister said, for his part, that his country wishes to attract foreign companies to provide the technology that is lacking here.
Nonetheless, he warned that Bolivia “needs partners who help us emerge from poverty,” not companies that want to appropriate its riches.
“In the past there were investments, but those investments made us poorer,” Choquehuanca said.
Jimenez stressed the “firm commitment” of Spanish companies to contribute to Bolivia’s economic growth and to increase their activities in such sectors as renewable energy, tourism and engineering.
The intention is that on Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s visit to Bolivia next month a number of investment agreements will be signed.
Jimenez hailed Spain’s good relations with the leftist government of Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. EFE