Worldwide: Special Report 2016 Latin America: Opening Up

Last Updated: 10 November 2016
Article by Iberian Lawyer
Most Popular Article in Mexico, November 2016
Whether it´s energy sector deals in Mexico, M&A in Chile, or corruption cases in Brazil, the Latin American market is generating work for Iberian lawyers from a wide range of practice areas

When it comes to providing opportunities for law firms, Latin America seems to offer something for everyone. While some countries offer the necessary stability to facilitate M&A transactions, others that may be plagued by political corruption for example, can provide rich pickings for firms' arbitration practices. In addition, outbound investment from Latin America is also a potential source of work for Spanish law firms – indeed, lawyers argue that Spain could do considerably more to enhance its reputation as a gateway to Europe for Latin American investors.

Julio Veloso, partner at Broseta, argues that the Pacific Alliance countries are home to the most dynamic economies in the region, particularly now that the Brazilian market is stagnant. "Colombia is where the growth opportunities are," he says. This is because, in the view of some lawyers, Mexico is relying on volatile sectors such as oil production, as well as on its links to the US. Meanwhile, Veloso agrees that Chile is the most stable economy in the region, but adds that the country is currently experiencing some political uncertainty that makes it less attractive to foreign investment. Elsewhere, a new pro-business president in Peru has engendered optimism among investors, according to Veloso.

Mexico: Huge potential
Growth prospects in the Pacific Alliance are connected to the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), according to Luis Riesgo, partner-in-charge of the Latin America practice group at Jones Day. However, he warns that the outcome of the US elections in November will have an impact on trade deals between the regional blocs. "Mexico will greatly benefit from the TPP once everything is in place," he concludes.
The efforts of the Mexican government to liberalise the energy sector in order to attract investment has been very positive, according to Ignacio Paz, co-head of Latin America at Herbert Smith Freehills. Though the energy reform has yet to bring the expected results, Paz says there was "no denying that the potential of Mexico is huge". Paz is also cautiously optimistic about Colombia's prospects: "The political situation remains difficult and the public-private partnership (PPP) law was approved some years ago and we are still waiting to see results." Meanwhile, Paz says there is also some potential in the Chilean market: "It's a stable, sophisticated and mature market where M&A opportunities are limited but interesting," he says.
A number of law firms are paying particularly close attention to the Colombian and Mexican markets, according to Eversheds Nicea partner María Hernández. "Clearly there are opportunities in infrastructure, energy and compliance, particularly when you already have proven expertise in those fields," she adds. Jose Maria Viñals, partner at Lupicinio International Law Firm, said he expects more privatisation, energy and infrastructure work in Colombia and Mexico. Meanwhile, Baker & McKenzie partner José Morán highlights the fact that US investment banks – including Goldman Sachs – have already made significant commitments to Colombian transportation projects.
Javier Villasante, partner at Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira argues that Mexico is the jewel in the crown of the Pacific Alliance. "The Pacific Alliance starts with Mexico, this is a country with a superior economy, it is close to the US and it has undertaken deep structural reforms in energy, telecommunications and electricity," he says. Villasante draws parallels between the changes that have taken place in Mexico with the privatisation process that took place in several sectors in Spain in the 1990s. He adds that Spanish law firms that gained expertise when working on Spanish privatisations will be able to capitalise on the current opportunities in Mexico. Meanwhile, Uría Menéndez has identified energy projects in Mexico – as well as infrastructure projects in Colombia – as significant opportunities.

Wave of corruption
While there is considerable uncertainty in Brazil – due to the economy being in a tailspin, an impeached president and a wave of corruption scandals – there remain significant opportunities for law firms, according to Riesgo. He says that, while the flow of M&A deals may be drying up, there is currently high demand for advice on global investigations, compliance and corruption cases.
Raquel Florez, partner and co-head of Latin America at Freshfields, says the Petrobras scandal was a watershed moment in the fight against corruption in Brazil. However, she adds that the country has strong and resilient institutions and an independent judiciary, which, she says, bodes well for the future of Brazil. Florez says global investigations are generating work for many lawyers, adding that there are also many opportunities related to distressed assets.
Beyond the Pacific Alliance, lawyers say there are opportunities for investment in a number of other Latin American economies, provided the risk is properly managed. Meanwhile, Florez says arbitration has been a particularly active area in countries where "assets have been confiscated, such as Argentina and Venezuela, for example". She adds: "Argentina is now attracting interest from our clients – there is an uptick of business confidence as a result of the new government."

Argentina: Confidence will return
Even when undergoing difficult times, Argentina has provided law firms with fruitful opportunities in a range of sectors, including energy in particular, according to Javier Fernández Samaniego, partner at Bird & Bird. Veloso also predicts a brighter future for the country: "Argentina will rebuild the rule of law and the business confidence will return."
The challenges faced by Argentina are not unusual, according to Veloso. "Most countries now have to work out their legal issues, put those new laws into practice and make all those planned projects move forward," he says. Veloso warns that in certain countries, civil servants fear signing off projects because their predecessors are now in jail or pending trial after anti-corruption drives.
A number of smaller Latin American countries are also generating interest among international investors, according to Paz. "I see a lot of interest in Uruguay and Cuba," he says. Paz adds that Latin America is attractive to law firms because of the balance in economic cycles across the region. "There are certain countries where the opportunities are plentiful for projects and M&A because the business climate is safe, and there are places where you go to do arbitration and to defend an investment when things go wrong," he says. Law firms also have an opportunity to capitalise on Latin American investment coming to Europe, Paz says. "When economies take off, you notice outbound investment, not just in the region, but also in Europe and elsewhere – Spain is well placed to be a hub that channels Latin American investment towards Europe." Veloso agrees that Spain can be a gateway to Europe, provided that law firms give "added value to those seeking opportunities".

Spain: Gateway to Europe?
However, José María Viñals, partner at Lupicinio International Law Firm, says the role of Spain as a gateway for Latin American investment into continental Europe could be enhanced – particularly given the advent of Brexit – through the introduction of more business-friendly administrative and tax measures. He adds that law firms should also look for opportunities beyond the Pacific Alliance, in countries where there are challenges for international investors – Viñals says Spanish law firms are well placed to give valuable advice in such circumstances.
What strategies are law firms adopting in order to capitalise on such opportunities? Fausto Pérez Miura, partner at Pérez-Llorca, says his firm's approach is to build a team "as if it were one single team, with the three to four best local independent firms" in the relevant country. Meanwhile, Veloso says clients of different sizes have different needs and therefore require different types of service. As one partner put it, "you need to understand your niche and make your strategy work."
Javier Mata, partner at Olleros Abogados, says that Latin America has a tumultuous history and that certain countries still have complicated political situations that impact on businesses and their legal advisors. However, he adds that, despite this environment, "larger law firms are more of a common sight in the region these days". Mata says there are significant opportunities for law firms in the Caribbean countries, particularly Cuba and the Dominican Republic. He adds that, given the large size of Latin America, firms need to focus. He continues: "The Caribbean is our focus." Meanwhile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Central America also harbour interesting opportunities, according to Veloso, with potential for inbound and outbound investment work, in particular.

Cuba: No rush to evolve
Viñals says his firm's considerable experience in Cuba means the firm is able to "facilitate potential investments on the island and guide clients through the particularities of doing business there". He adds that, under existing Cuban regulations, it is not possible to incorporate a foreign law firm in the country.
However, Viñals says his firm is continuing to search the market for instructions from foreign investors. Meanwhile, Olleros Abogados is keen to open an office in Cuba in order to capitalise on potential opportunities, according to Mata. However, the current system of compulsory partnerships with the Cuban state law firms makes it unrealistic. "The country will evolve, it's unavoidable, but it will be done Cuban-style, with no rush," Mata says.
Hernández is cautious with regard to Cuban opportunities for Spanish law firms. "The influence of the US is noticeable, they are way ahead of us in a number of markets," she says. There are a number of opportunities for US investors in the Cuban telecoms and renewables sectors, according to law firm Hunton & Williams. However, Florez highlights the fact that US law firms are still prevented from doing business in Cuba and adds that interest in the country among international investors is increasing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions