“The policy brief by the U.S. Trade Representative on the free trade agreement with Peru states that the agreement ‘provides U.S. investors the same basic substantive and procedural protections that Peruvian investors currently enjoy under the U.S. legal system’,” Ms. Levy said. “That clearly has not been the case with respect to our investment.”
Ms. Levy, a naturalized American citizen, and her two brothers in Peru own 500 acres of land purchased for residential tourist development in a coastal area just outside of Lima, the capital, in a 1995 competitive bid conducted by the town council of Chorrillos.
Two years later, the duly registered deed was challenged by the succeeding mayor of the town, who attempted to invalidate the sale by claiming procedural violations in the bidding process and proximity to Solar Hill, an archeological and historical monument.
The case was submitted to an Arbitration Court, which issued a binding decision in 2001 that declared the contracts were “fully valid.” The court also ruled that while Solar Hill was a protected part of the country’s cultural heritage, the adjacent land owned by the Levy family was not so protected.
The National Institute of Culture confirmed subsequently that there were “no archeological remains” on the Levy property.
In 2007, the Levys obtained an urban development license to move ahead with the project, but just as work began, the newly appointed director of the National Institute of Culture reversed the long-standing determination and halted development of the project on the basis that it was part of the Solar Hill historical monument.
The Levys immediately filed an appeal, which was summarily rejected by the institute without any review of the evidence presented.
“The recent decision to deny permission to develop commercial property owned by an American citizen, which would have created many jobs and promoted tourism in Peru, is a violation of the spirit and letter of the agreement. It makes the property worthless and is tantamount to confiscation of the property without compensation,” Ms. Levy said. “This is not rule of law, but rule by politicians.”
Ms. Levy contended that Peruvian President Alan Garcia and members of his administration involved in this dispute know that the latest decree is invalid and will be overturned by the courts.
“This realization prompted Garcia to introduce legislation to legalize the agency’s illegal decision, and while the bill failed to pass, the opposition expects it to be resubmitted,” she said.
Ms. Levy has met with a number of Members of Congress in Washington and U.S. and Peruvian officials in Lima to make her case. “We will pursue this matter until justice is done,” she said.
“If Peru and its current president are serious about attracting U.S. investors to their country, they can start by upholding the law and the terms of the free trade agreement.”