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)

Znet | 16-Jul-2005
Bolivia faces an impending lawsuit for cancelling the water contract with Aguas del Illimani, the private consortium controlled by majority shareholder Suez. Thanks to a bilateral investment treaty signed between France and Bolivia, Suez has the right to sue the Bolivian government for breach of contract.
Forbes | 13-May-2005
The Argentine government said it will try to annul a ruling by the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in favour of US company CMS Energy Corp.
| 7-Apr-2005
Scotiabank has filed a $600 million US compensation claim against Argentina, claiming that "discriminatory" actions taken by Argentine authorities led to the total loss of its investment in its Scotiabank Quilmes subsidiary in 2002.
Public Citizen | 23-Feb-2005
A new study by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch analyzes 42 NAFTA investor-state challenges and illustrates how the proposed CAFTA would extend the threat.
| 10-Feb-2005
El Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, la Asociación por la Igualdad y la Justicia, Consumidores Libres Cooperativa Ltda. de Provisión de Servicios de Acción Comunitaria, la Unión de Usuarios y Consumidores, y el Centro para el Derecho Internacional Ambiental se presentaron en calidad de Amicus Curiae, en la causa de Aguas Argentinas/Suez contra el Estado argentino.
| 12-Jan-2005
The graffiti on the walls in Quito ask if the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that the US is pushing on Colombia, Peru and Ecuador means that our days are numbered.
| 12-Jan-2005
En estos días las pintas quiteñas preguntan si con el Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) que EEUU está impulsando con Colombia, Perú y Ecuador ¿tenemos los días contados?
NYT | 2-Oct-2004
In Ecuador, residents of the country’s eastern rainforest are suing Chevron Texaco. They say that the methods Texaco used to drill for oil in the 1970’s and 1980’s caused billions of dollars in environmental damage and health problems that continue today.
| 22-Sep-2004
Decision of ICSID Tribunal (July 17, 2003) in regard to objections to jurisdiction in CMS Gas Transmission Company vs The Republic of Argentina. CMS bases its claim against Argentina on a 1991 Argentina-US Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT).
| 16-Sep-2004
The free trade agreement the United States plans to negotiate with the Andean countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru should contain an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, witnesses at a Trade Policy Staff Committee hearing on the Andean FTA said March 17.

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