(above) Mr Morales said the Spanish investors would receive compensation

Bolivia nationalises three Spanish-owned airports


President Evo Morales has nationalised three Spanish-owned airports, accusing the foreign investors of "maximising profits" at Bolivia's expense.

The contract of the company managing the airports, Sabsa, was due to last until 2025.

The left-wing leader's move surprised Spain, which said the "unfriendly act" had led it to "reconsider the whole of relations" with Bolivia.

It is Mr Morales' third expropriation of a Spanish firm in less than a year.

The leader said on Monday he had instructed the ministry of public works, services and housing to take "full operational control" of Sabsa, the company running the airports in the cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

Until now Sabsa had been jointly managed by the Barcelona-based company Abertis and Spain's airport authority.

The Bolivian leader said he would hire an independent company to determine fair compensation for the Spanish investors, the Associated Press reported.

'Police occupation'
But Spain's Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the move, saying it "deeply deplored" the lack of warning and "the police occupation" of the Spanish firm's offices.

It warned that the "unfriendly act, combined with other similar measures" recently taken by Bolivia was likely to damage relations between both countries.

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.

The president defended his decision by saying it was in line with his country's constitution, which stipulates that the public interest is above private interests when it comes to energy supply.

In May, he seized the subsidiary of Spanish power company REE, which owned and ran around three-quarters of Bolivia's power grid