Bolivia: President Evo Morales Nationalises Airports
Earlier today, Bolivian president Evo Morales announced plans to nationalise the country’s three largest airports. The airport operator Bolivian Airports Service Company (SABSA), a subsidiary of the Spanish firm Abertis y Aena, is accused of not carrying out agreed investments towards updating its facilities.
The decision to nationalise SABSA was taken after executives refused to increase their initial investment of US$36m, required to maintain and develop the country’s principal airports. The military is set to take control of airport terminals in El Alto (La Paz), Viru-Viru (Santa Cruz), and Wilsterman (Cochabamba). In Bolivia, it is common practice for troops to be dispatched to recently nationalised companies.
SABSA is the third Spanish company to be nationalised in less than a year in what began with the expropriation of Red Eléctrica in May 2012, followed by two electricity distribution companies owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola in December of the same year.
The nationalisation of SABSA reflects attempts by the Bolivian government to reclaim control of the country’s strategic resources, including natural gas, minerals, and public services. It is a move which aims to promote and indeed facilitate state-led development of the country without direct foreign interference. Morales issued the statement from the main city of Cochabamba, accompanied by vice-president Álvaro García Linera and the minister for public works, Vladimir Sánchez.