Protests and processions in Bogotá and Colombia’s second city, Medellín, met the government’s decision to sell it’s $2 billion stake in state power generator Isagén, the biggest privatization seen in the country for over a decade.
Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, the Canadian firm whose bid was successful in what had once been a fairly competitive auction landscape, is currently under investigation in Brazil for the resale of construction contracts. A rather flaky start for a company which will take over 16 percent of Colombian electricity generation.
“Illegal in any light.”
The government’s 57.61 percent stake in the firm will see Colombia lose control of a firm which reported earnings of $714 million last year alone, according to Semana magazine.
During the sale, which took place outside Bogotá’s Chamber of Commerce in Calle 72, the business sector of the Colombian capital, protestors chanted slogans slamming President Juan Manuel Santos, armed with placards reading “Isagén is for everyone”.
Isagén’s six electricity stations, dotted across Colombia, contribute some 2,212 MW of power to the country’s national grid. Around 1,912 MW is generated by hydropower.
Alirio Uribe, representative of Colombia’s Democratic Alternative Party (PDA) stated that Colombia is “losing national property” through the sale of the firm.
“It’s a sale which is illegal in any light,” he added.
Senator Claudia López from the Green Party (Alianza Verde) reminded Santos’ government that Isagén “provides annual income to the state, which finances the (national) budget.”
Social media reacts
Across social media, politicians and Colombian nationals reacted to the sale in horror.
Colombian rebel group the FARC, currently involved in peace talks with Santos’ government in Havana, tweeted that the sale and privatization of Isagén and state oil firm Ecopetrol will “lead the country to a disastrous future.”
Ventas de Isagen y Ecopetrol, entre otras privatizaciones, conducirán el país a un futuro desastroso. La prosperidad será para los mismos.
— Timoleón Jiménez (@Timochenko_FARC) January 12, 2016
The FARC also tweeted their response to the sale via the group’s official Twitter feed:
Ex-president Alvaro Úribe also tweeted his response to to the sale, in a witty cartoon Santos is depicted saying “Energy is neither created nor destroyed,” while standing next to a jar of preserves:
Lo que se gastaron y siguen gastando! pic.twitter.com/xGN2Cjkqta
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) January 13, 2016
Under the hashtag #Isagenesdetodos Colombians responded to the sale, uploading protest pictures and statistics:
— OCECOLOMBIA.CO (@OCEcolombia) January 12, 2016
Despite a social media backlash and protests across Colombia, the sale marks a change in Colombia’s energy market. Whether it will work out as Santos expects is a whole different story.