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Central America 2016: Natural Resources

Since the beginning of private sector participation in the Central American energy markets in the 1990s, energy and mining has been a key source of regional investment. Although the first 15 years of the open market was overly reliant on the oil sector, this began to be rectified in the mid-2000s. Indeed, the renewable energy sector has expanded dramatically in the last 10 years and in 2014 renewables were the source of almost 64 per cent of electricity generation in the region. 

ClimateScope 2015 ranks Latin America and the Caribbean’s clean energy penetration above both Africa and Asia, with no fewer than six Central American countries featuring inside the top 15. All the countries in this chapter place a strong emphasis on energy diversification as a means of ensuring long-term economic growth and efficient power generation. As a result, renewable energy developers enjoy legislative benefits such as tax breaks. The pathway towards clean energy in the region is clear with most countries supporting 100 per cent renewable energy generation within the next few decades. Hydroelectric and geothermal power constitutes the main sources of clean energy in the region, but there has also been increased investment in wind and solar power.

Most large corporate and commercial law firms offer substantive advice in relation to financing and implementation of energy projects in the region, with regional and national full service firms making up the bulk of our research.

Costa Rica

Aguilar Castillo Love is a prestigious Central American law firm with one of the best corporate practices in the region. John Aguilar-Quesada is regularly seen as “one of the country’s top dealmakers” and is very active in cross-border transactions in the energy sector.

Zurcher Odio & Raven has a strong team that handles a broad range of projects in the natural resources sector. Claudio Donato Monge is an expert in public law and project financing and is actively involved in many of the largest energy and infrastructure projects in the country.

At VS Abogados, Jose Pablo Sánchez is a specialist in environmental and energy law, advising clients on regulations and compliance. Clients find him to be “extremely reliable, knowledgeable and creative”.

Dominican Republic

Pellerano & Herrera is considered a go-to law firm for large and complex energy projects. Luís Pellerano is the partner in charge of the firm’s foreign investment practice and regularly advises an international client base in the energy and mining sectors, with a focus on the development of internationally financed projects. Mariangela Pellerano is “a highly thought-of star of the next generation”, according to respondents. She has assisted in a number of the largest natural resources projects in the country, including the Pueblo Viejo gold mine valued at $2.7 billion.

Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernandez is one of the largest law firms in the DR. The “excellent” Marisol Vicens Bello is an experienced corporate and energy law practitioner, who is regularly engaged in large infrastructure projects in the country. Meanwhile, Julio Cesar Camejo Castillo is well known and respected for his environmental law practice.

Alejandro Peña-Prieto is the managing partner of Squire Patton Boggs’s Santo Domingo office. He focuses on providing counsel to US, Latin American and European investors in relation to the development of energy projects in the country. Respondents find him to be “a very gifted lawyer with excellent connections”.

Quiroz Santroni Abogados focuses on environmental law and assists clients in the strategic development and compliance issues in relation to investment projects in the country. Founding partner Romina Santroni is regarded as “an incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated environmental practitioner”.

El Salvador

Arias & Muñoz is considered the leading law firm in El Salvador for natural resources projects.  Zygmunt Brett has “a very strong practice and is by far the best transactional lawyer in the country in my view”, according to one source. Ana Mercedes López is regularly engaged in multijurisdictional transactions and has advised on large natural resources related M&A and project financings in the country.

Guatemala

Mayora & Mayora’s “first-rate” energy department is regularly endorsed by observers. Lead practitioner Rafael Briz is one of the most experienced energy law practitioners in the country and advises on the full spectrum of regulations, government contracts and corporate matters.

Rodolfo Alegria T heads the regulatory law practice group at Carrillo y Asociados. He is well known for representing energy law groups across the full spectrum of energy related matters in the region. Sources regard him as “an intelligent and responsive counsel”.

AD Sosa & Soto is a prominent Guatemalan corporate and commercial law firm with a strong foundation in natural resources and a number of prominent clients in the electricity, petroleum and mining sectors. José Javier Sosa is described as a “very knowledgeable energy law practitioner”.

Juan Carlos Castillo-Chacón is recognised as a leading figure in Aguilar Castillo Love’s Guatemalan office. He is extensively experienced in advising on energy regulations and corporate transactions in the energy sector.       

Nicaragua

Arias & Muñoz has an impressive Nicaraguan energy law offering. Bernard Pallais is considered “a definite inclusion” with peers regularly endorsing his “outstanding practice”. He advises on a range of project acquisitions and financings in both the traditional and renewable energy sectors. Bertha Argüello acts on corporate and financing transactions in the energy and mining sectors. Sources state, “She is a very sophisticated lawyer, who is often the go to for complex transactional matters in the country.”

At Central Law Nicaragua, Álvaro Molina Vaca advises domestic and international energy and mining companies on the full range of financings and project implementation. He is praised for his “hands-on approach” and “thorough guidance”.

Panama

Galindo Arias y López is a leading full-service firm in the country with a fittingly excellent energy offering. The large team is able to act on some of the largest and complex energy projects in the country, including the San Andres 12.8MW hydroelectric project. Salomón Behar is extensively experienced in advising on project financing, regulations and procurement contracts for large power projects. Sources note that he is “a very knowledgeable and well-connected practitioner”. Diego de la Guardia Porras is regarded as “a statesman-like figure”; over a 20-year career he has advised public and private entities in the implementation of large energy projects. Cristina Lewis de la Guardia is highly regarded for handling large energy and infrastructure transactions, as well as complex regulatory matters. She is “very astute and easy to work with”, according to peers.

Arias Fábrega & Fábrega is one of the most highly regarded firms in Panama and its natural resources team has a strong transactional emphasis. Head of department Estif Aparicio is “a well-known and respected lawyer” with extensive experience in large-scale infrastructure transactions. Head of the business and corporate group Roy Durling Jr is highly regarded in the oil and gas, and mining space. Clients report that “he is a very good in negotiations” and at “getting things done”.

Alejandro Ferrer is head of Alemán Cordero Galindo & Lee’s highly regarded energy department, which advises clients on M&A, project finance and development, as well as regulatory compliance. One Respondent notes that “he is very experienced and supportive, and he ensures a transaction’s best chances of success”. Prominent clients include Shell, Acon Renewables and Puma Energy.

Siaska Lorenzo is the go-to figure for energy and natural resources matters in Arias & Muñoz’s Panama office and has particular expertise in public contracts. She is said to be “extremely knowledgeable and practical”.

At Morgan & Morgan, Inocenco Galindo is regarded as a “first-class transactional lawyer with extensive experience handling complex cross-border projects in the electricity and mining space. Matters include representing AES Changuinola in the US$366 million syndicated secured financing of a new 223MW hydroelectric power plant.

Juan Pardini, senior partner of Pardini & Associates, is noted for his expertise in the mining, hydroelectric, and oil and gas sectors, having engaged in large cross-border corporate and financing transactions. Clients say that “he understands the market very well and is commercial in his approach”.

Victoria Eugenia Myers of Arosemena Noriega & Contreras is “a longstanding figure of note” with extensive experience of commercial and corporate mattes in the energy sector.

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