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Bolivia Nationalizes Its Three Main Airports

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Bolivia's President Evo Morales announced the nationalization of the country's three main airports on Monday, saying the Spanish company that operated them had sought to "maximize profits" at Bolivia's expense and had failed to make necessary investments.

(Photo: La Prensa) The airports, in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, were operated by Sabsa (Servicios de Aeropuertos Bolivianos), and, according to BBC News, "had been jointly managed by the Barcelona-based company Abertis and Spain's airport authority."

Reuters reports:

"I want to let the people of Bolivia know about the nationalization of Sabsa," Morales said in a televised speech in the central city of Cochabamba, adding that the company had made "an exorbitant profit with a derisory capital input."

"For this and other reasons, we were obliged to make this decision. We were ready to do this years ago, but we waited because of our diplomatic relations with certain countries," he said.

Morales also denounced the high salary the head of Sabsa, Antony Alicastro, received, saying Alicastro's monthly salary was equivalent to what he made in 8 months.

Andres Schipani reported in the Financial Times that Morales also "labeled the privatization of airports as 'looting'" on Monday.

Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said the nationalization was an "unfriendly act" that "would have its consequences."

And El País reports that Albertis is seeking $90 million in compensation for the loss and is reportedly looking into legal action against the Bolivian government.

The move marks the country's third expropriation of a Spanish company in less than a year.

BBC News reports:

Since taking office in 2006, Mr Morales has nationalised several oil, telecommunications and energy-generating companies.

Last December, he brought two Spanish-owned electricity supply companies under state control after they allegedly overcharged consumers in rural areas.