Latin America

Latin American and Caribbean countries have signed almost 700 investment agreements. They have been targeted in almost 300 investor-state disputes.

Argentina has faced almost 62 ISDS cases, about 6% of all cases, making it the world’s most targeted state. Venezuela and Mexico have been among the ten most frequent respondents in the world, with 51 and 33 cases, respectively.

Many key cases such as Renco vs. Peru, Chevron vs. Ecuador or Pac Rim vs. El Salvador have originated in significant environmental damages caused by corporations. Philip Morris took an ISDS case against Uruguay over its anti-tobacco law.

Chile, Mexico and Peru are also party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eight other Pacific Rim states. The TPP includes an investor-state dispute mechanism that undermines public-interest ‘safeguards’.

The most well-known cases ISDS cases in the region include:

Chevron (US) vs. Ecuador: For 26 years, Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, performed oil operations in Ecuador. Ecuadorian courts found that during that period the company dumped billions of gallons of toxic water and dug hundreds of open-air oil sludge pits in Ecuador’s Amazon, poisoning the communities of some 30,000 Amazon residents. After a legal battle spanning two decades, in November 2013, Ecuador’s highest court ordered the corporation to pay $9.5 billion to provide desperately needed clean-up and health care to afflicted indigenous communities. Chevron challenged the decisions produced by Ecuador’s domestic legal system before an ISDS tribunal. In 2018, the arbitration tribunal held that the $9.5 billion judgment was fraudulent, violated international public policy and should not be recognised or enforced by the courts of other States. The amount of the award has not been established yet. (Ecuador-United States BIT invoked)

Occidental Petroleum Corporation “Oxy” (US) vs. Ecuador: in 2012 Ecuador was ordered to pay US$1.77 billion to the investor, an oil exploration and production company, for breach of contract. Sentence was reduced to US$1 billion in November 2015 (Ecuador-United States BIT invoked).

Investors vs. Argentina: When Argentina froze its utility rates in response to its 2001-2002 financial crisis, it was hit by over 40 lawsuits from investors, including Suez & Vivendi (France), Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona S.A (Spain) and Anglian Water (UK). The ISDS tribunal concluded that Argentina had breached the investors’ right to fair and equitable treatment. By 2014, the country had been ordered to pay a total of US$980 million (various BITs invoked).

(April 2020)

| 24-Apr-2012
The European Union has warned Argentina that it risks jeopardizing trade ties over Buenos Aires’ plans to expropriate a unit of Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA (REP.MC) and impose a series of import restrictions and that Brussels stands ready to take retaliatory action.
IISD | 13-Apr-2012
The arbitral tribunal in Chevron v. Ecuador has taken a series of steps in recent months suggesting that it has a broad view of its authority.
| 1-Apr-2012
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner questioned US president Barack Obama’s recent decision to suspend trade benefits for Argentina, while complaining that “we can’t even manage to get one of our lemons to enter the US market.”
ICTSD | 29-Mar-2012
Trade frictions are on the rise between Washington and Buenos Aires, after US President Barack Obama announced that the US would be suspending Argentina from its Generalised System of Preferences programme for failure to pay arbitration awards in two disputes involving US investors.
Policymic | 29-Mar-2012
Ecuadorian communities learned from the way that Chevron’s operations flouted environmental law in the 1990’s, that once entrusted to foreign businesses their natural resources are usually squandered.
| 26-Mar-2012
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina because of the South American country’s failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors.
| 21-Mar-2012
The United States could soon suspend trade benefits for Argentina because of that country’s failure to pay awards in two long-running investment disputes with U.S. companies, a U.S. trade official said on Monday.
Amazon Defense Council | 17-Feb-2012
The Andean Commission of Jurists and five prestigious international law experts from around the world have joined a growing chorus of criticism targeting Chevron’s attempt to use a secret investor arbitration as part of its campaign to evade an $18 billion environmental judgment in Ecuador, according to letters released today.
The Economist | 17-Feb-2012
Argentina has never threatened to quit ICSID. Its government insists it is open to honouring the awards. The only delay, it says, is that the claimants have not brought their rulings to a local court for collection.
Amazon Defense Coalition | 1-Feb-2012
On February 11, Chevron will ask a panel of three private lawyers named as "arbitrators" under the BIT to nullify the entire nine-year Ecuadorian court process that recently found the company liable for $18 billion in clean-up costs.

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