Bolivia: Protest against Telecom Italia's attacks

Issue 

Below is an abridged statement released on May 15 by participants in the People's Social Summit in Lima, denouncing the decision of ETI and Telecom Italia to demand that the New York State Court freeze the accounts of the National Telecommunications Company (ENTEL). This action is part of a strategy of aggression against the government of Bolivia, which has nationalised ENTEL. Visit http://boliviarising.blogspot.com for the full statement with signatures.

The signatories denounce the recent acts of aggression of Telecom Italia against the Bolivian people.

ETI/Telecom Italia has chosen to use this measure in the context of a legal case against Bolivia presented on October 12, 2007 before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It is a measure that could have serious impacts for one of the most impoverished countries in Latin America, given that a decision in Telecom Italia's favour would lead to the money in the frozen accounts being handed over directly to the company.

As a result of neoliberal policies in the 1990s, the most strategic sectors of the economy were privatised and handed over to transnational capital. This has had grave economic, social and environmental impacts.

The current Bolivian government's policy is to revert this situation and recuperate the sovereignty of the Bolivian people over these sectors in order to contribute to Bolivia's development. In April 2007, Bolivia announced its intention to retake control of ENTEL via legal means, through discussion and negotiation. The company's response was to present before ICSID on October 12 a formal demand to put together an arbitration tribunal against Bolivia, asking for compensation for a fictitious harm to its investment.

This does not respect Bolivia's sovereign decision to withdraw from ICSID — a private World Bank tribunal. Secondly, there is considerable evidence that ETI/Telecom Italia did not invest what was promised in Bolivia and has failed to provide adequate services to the Bolivian population. Moreover, ETI/Telecom Italia owes approximately US$82 million dollars in defaulted taxes in Bolivia.

Therefore, international civil society organisations signed below, in solidarity with the Bolivian people, vigorously condemn the decision of ETI/Telecom Italia to freeze the accounts of ENTEL in New York, calling on the company to end its litigation in ICSID and to respect Bolivia's sovereignty.