[Reader-list] Bolivian Water

Pradip Saha prosaha at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 13 12:57:19 IST 2002

Remember the water riots in Bolivia in 2000, which figured the top most 
censored story in projectcensored.org list in 2001. The story is not over. 
Here is a dispatch from The paper. www.thepaper.org.au

Bolivia sued for ‘lost profits’

In the spring of 2000, thousands of residents of Cochabamba, Bolivia, seized 
control of the city’s central plaza to protest the privatisation of their 
water supply and subsequent dramatic increases in their water bills, which 
by some accounts had doubled or even tripled.

The protests triggered clashes across the country over a wide range of other 
economic problems. In response, the federal government declared a state of 
emergency and ordered a military crackdown. By the time the tear gas had 
cleared, six people had been killed and hundreds injured.
The target of the Cochabamba uprising was the local water utility, Aguas del 
Tunari (AdT), which was operated in part by International Water Ltd., an 
affiliate of San Francisco-based Bechtel Group. In a victory for 
privatization foes, the protesters succeeded in ousting AdT, rolling back 
rates, and restoring public control of the water system. Bechtel didn’t 
leave empty handed though. The utilities computer hard drives were taken, as 
was the cash left in the company’s accounts, and sensitive personnel files 
from before their time. They also left behind an unpaid electric bill for 

But the controversy is far from settled. According to Bolivian news reports, 
Bechtel is threatening to use a 1992 trade agreement between Holland and 
Bolivia to sue the Bolivian government, seeking at least $25 million in 
damages and future lost profits. If the company follows through with its 
threat, a secret tribunal set up by the World Bank will hear the case.

Bechtel’s lawyers are claiming as losses the millions of dollars in 
potential profits they had hoped to make and weren’t allowed to.
Government officials, activists, and Cochabamba residents are currently 
exploring their options with regards to the Bechtel case.

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