International arbitration has become a hot topic in South America, not only for governments, lawyers and academics, but also for societies themselves. The media have given plenty of attention to international investment arbitration cases and thus, common citizens have got acquainted with cases involving their States, which are discussed before international tribunals. Hence, international arbitration is no longer an unfamiliar issue, but rather a frequent and openly discussed phenomenon in many South American countries.
In Argentina, international investment arbitration has been broadly discussed and varied opinions have arisen since its economic crisis in 2001, as foreign investors and bondholders have resorted to international investment arbitration due to the measures taken by the Argentine government. As a result, Argentina became by far the country with most cases brought by investors, most of which are heard before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunals.
After the Argentine crisis in 2001, new developments in three other countries have boosted the relevance of international investment arbitration in the region. In the case of Bolivia, since early 2006 the government decided to nationalize foreign investments in the oil and gas industry, and the hydrocarbons and mining sectors.