When dealing with international service of process, Central and South America offer several ways to effectuate service. While some countries in Central and South America are signatories to the Hague Service Convention, there are many which are not. When attempting to establish jurisdiction in these countries, there is an alternative for countries who are signatories to another multi-lateral treaty: the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol.
With Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico being the only Central/South American countries who are signatories to the Hague Service Convention, the alternative to serve through the Inter-American Service Convention is good news for US attorneys.13 countries are currently party to the Inter-American Convention, including Guatemala, Uruguay, Panama and Peru. Several countries, including Mexico, are parties to both the Hague Convention and the Inter-American Convention.
The Inter-American Convention has some similarities to the Hague Convention, using Letters Rogatory and calling for the translation of all documents being served. However, there are some issues one can encounter through the Inter-American Convention which don’t exist through the Hague Convention. The lack of designated Central Authorities is one of these issues. Without the clear establishment of Central Authorities, knowing where to send paperwork in order to ensure service is effectuated can be difficult.
Although point of difficulty is that although the Inter-American Convention was developed to create a uniform code for service of process among its members, there are still some discrepancies. Article 2 of the Inter-American Convention states the scope is limited to civil and commercial matters. While Article 16 allows signatories to increase the scope to criminal and administrative matters, so far only Chile has stated it will do so.
As in most countries who are not signatories to the Hague Service Convention, service under the Inter-American Convention can be expected to take anywhere from six months to a year. According to an article by Proskauer however, it appears Peru generally completes service within three months.
Although the Inter-American Convention has some limitations, it is a better alternative to service of process in Central and South American than traditional Letters Rogatory. Given that it is a treaty, the signatories have agreed to work together regarding service of process, particularly in regard to civil and commercial matters. When the Hague Service Convention is not an option, the Inter-American Treaty is the next best resort.