Bolivian President Evo Morales has nationalized a Spanish company that operates the country’s three main airports.

Morales said on Monday he had instructed the country’s ministry of public works, services and housing to take “full operational control” of SABSA, a joint venture of Spanish Abertis and airport authority Aena.

He also ordered the military to take over the control of the airports, La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz, in an effort to “safeguard the public interest.”

The Spanish company has run the three airports since they were privatized in 1997. The contract was due to continue until 2025.

The Bolivian leader said the Spanish investors did not make promised investments and maximized “profits” at Bolivia’s expense.

Morales said an independent company would be hired to decide the amount of compensation for the Spanish company.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to Morales’ move, saying it would “reconsider the whole of relations” with Bolivia in view of the “unfriendly act, combined with other similar measures” recently taken by the Bolivian government against Spanish firms.

The move was the third nationalization that has affected Spanish companies in Bolivia in 10 months.

On December 30, 2012, the Bolivian government also nationalized two electrical utilities, which belonged to Iberdrola, Spain’s largest energy group.

On May 1, 2012, the government took over Transportadora de Electricidad, owned by Spanish company Red Electrica, that owns and runs almost 75 per cent of the electric power lines across Bolivia.