As an FYI,
This is the email message I received back from Bechtel Enterprises regarding
the current situation in Bolivia.
>In response to your e-mail message about Cochabamba, we provide the
>following statement issued Tuesday morning, the 11th, by International Water
>Ltd., a water development company owned by Bechtel Enterprises and Edison
>S.p.A. Edison S.p.A., an affiliate of Group Montedison, is Italy's largest
>private energy services company. Aguas del Tunari, mentioned below, is the
>IWL-led consortium that negotiated the Cochabamba water concession. If you
>have further questions or comments, please contact IWL's London headquarters
>at (44-171) 766-5100. Alternatively, you may send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
>"We are saddened by the violence that has occurred in Bolivia this past
>"We are equally dismayed by the fact that much of the blame is falsely
>centered on the government's plan to raise water rates in Cochabamba, when
>in fact, a number of other water, social and political issues are the root
>causes of this civil unrest. Several of these factors have all led to the
>tensions on display throughout the country:
>* proposed water legislation (unrelated to the Aguas del Tunari
>concession) that requires farmers and others to obtain permits for water
>* unemployment and other economic difficulties facing Bolivian
>* a government crackdown on coca-leaf production
>* and police protests over salaries.
>"We are in urgent discussions with local leaders to determine an appropriate
>resolution to the water shortage problems facing the Cochabamba region.
>Currently more than 40% of the region's citizens have no direct access to
>water resources. We were invited by the government to participate in a
>privatization program to develop long-term solutions to provide safe and
>affordable water and wastewater services. During the past several months we
>have participated in a number of meetings with government and community
>leaders to identify acceptable options to ease the transition from public to
>private management. We remain flexible in our approach and hopeful that the
>government and community can reach consensus on a solution that allows the
>water delivery system to be expanded and improved."
>> >From: Jim Shultz <JShultz@democracyctr.org>
>> >Subject: MARTIAL LAW IN BOLIVIA - HOW YOU CAN HELP
>> >Sunday, April 9th
>> >Cochabamba, Bolivia
>> >Dear Friends:
>> > The situation here in Bolivia remains critical. Since the
>> declaration of
>> >martial law yesterday at least three people have been killed, including a
>> >17 year old boy shot by soldiers with live ammunition here in Cochabamba.
>> >More than 30 people in Cochabamba alone have been injured from conflicts
>> >with the military. Respected leaders of the water protests have been
>> >jailed, some flown to a remote location in Bolivia’s jungle. Soldiers
>> >continue to occupy the city’s center. However, there is now something very
>> >real and straightforward you can do to help.
>> > The massive protests that prompted the declaration of martial
>> law here
>> >were prompted by the sale of Cochabamba’s public water system to a private
>> >corporation (Aguas del Tunari, owned by International Water Limited) which
>> >then doubled water rates for poor families that can barely afford to feed
>> >themselves. It turns out that that the main financial power behind that
>> >water corporation in the Bechtel Corporation, based in San Francisco
>> >(Source: http://www.bechtel.com/whatnew/1999artsq4.html).
>> > The people of Bolivia have made it very clear that they want
>> Bechtel out.
>> >The Bolivian government is so committed to protecting Bechtel that it has
>> >declared martial law and killed its own people. While some in the
>> >government here are saying this afternoon that Bechtel will leave, given
>> >the government's reversal on the same promise Friday the statement has no
>> >credibility here ansent a written agreement and end to martial law. It is
>> >critical that pressure be brought to bear directly on Bechtel in the US.
>> >You can help, here’s how:
>> >1) Send an e-mail, letter, fax or make a phone call to:
>> > Riley Bechtel, Chairman and CEO, Bechtel Corp
>> > E-mail: email@example.com
>> > Tel: (415) 768-1234
>> > Fax: (415) 768-9038
>> > Address: 50 Beale Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
>> >2) The Message:
>> > "Bolivians have made it absolutely clear that they want
>> Bechtel’s water
>> >company, Aguas de Tunari, out of Bolivia, through a week of huge protests
>> >that have nearly shut down the country. To protect Bechtel, the Bolivian
>> >government has now put the country under martial law, leaving many dead and
>> >wounded. Bechtel has a responsibility to honor the wishes of Bolivians and
>> >bring the crisis to an end by immediatley signing an agreement to turn the
>> >water system back over to Bolivians."
>> >3) Please send this information as far and wide as you can. More than
>> >1,000 other are receiving this message today. Even 100 e-mails ro calls to
>> >Bechtel Monday will make an enormous difference.
>> > To give you some additional context on events here I am
>> including below an
>> >article, which I published in Saturday’s San Jose Mercury News. The article
>> >went to press just before the government reversed position and declared
>> >martial law.
>> > Many thanks,
>> > Jim Shultz
>> > The Democracy Center
>> > JShultz@democracyctr.org
>> > BOLIVIAN PROTESTERS WIN WAR OVER WATER
>> >COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA
>> >In a stunning concession to four days of massive public uprisings, the
>> >Bolivian government announced late Friday afternoon that it was breaking
>> >the contract it signed last year that sold the region's water system to a
>> >consortium of British-led investors.
>> >A general strike and road blockades that began Tuesday morning in
>> >Cochabamba shut down the city of half a million, leaving the usually
>> >crowded streets virtually empty of cars and closing schools, businesses and
>> >the city's 25-square-block marketplace, one of Latin America's largest.
>> >The government's surprise agreement to reverse the water privatization deal
>> >follows four months of public protest. It came just as it appeared that
>> >President Hugo Banzer Suárez was preparing to declare martial law, possibly
>> >triggering fighting in the streets between riot police and the thousands of
>> >angry protesters who seized control of the city's central plaza.
>> >Greater meaning
>> >While rumors are surfacing that the government might backtrack on their
>> >promise, for Bolivians the popular victory apparently won over water has
>> >much wider meaning. ``We're questioning that others, the World Bank,
>> >international business, should be deciding these basic issues for us,''
>> >said protest leader Oscar Olivera. ``For us, that is democracy.''
>> > The selling-off of public enterprises to foreign investors has been a
>> >heated economic debate in Bolivia for a decade, as one major business after
>> >another -- the airline, the train system, electric utilities -- has been
>> >sold into private (almost always foreign) hands. Last year's one-bidder
>> >sale of Cochabamba's public water system, a move pushed on government
>> >officials by the World Bank, the international lending institution, brought
>> >the privatization fight to a boil.
>> >In January, as the new owners erected their shiny new ``Aguas del Tunari''
>> >logo over local water facilities, the company also slapped local water
>> >users with rate increases that were as much as double. In a city where the
>> >minimum wage is less than $100 per month, many families were hit with
>> >increases of $20 per month and more.
>> > Tanya Paredes, a mother of five who supports her family as a
>> >clothes-knitter, says her increase, $15 per month, was equal to what it
>> >costs to feed her family for 1 1/2 weeks. ``What we pay for water comes out
>> >of what we have to pay for food, clothes and the other things we need to
>> >buy for our children,'' she said.
>> > Public anger over the rate increases, led by a new alliance, known here as
>> >``La Coordinadora,'' exploded in mid-January with a four-day shutdown of
>> >the city, stunning the government and forcing an agreement to reverse the
>> >rate increases.
>> > In early February, when the promises never materialized, La Coordinadora
>> >called for a peaceful march on the city's central plaza. Banzer (who
>> >previously ruled as a dictator from 1971-78) met the protesters with more
>> >than 1,000 police and an armed takeover of La Cochabamba's center. Two days
>> >of police tear gas and rock-throwing by marchers left more than 175
>> >protesters injured and two youths blinded.
>> > February's violent clashes forced the government and the water company to
>> >implement a rate rollback and freeze until November, and to agree to a new
>> >round of negotiations.
>> >Deal scrutinized
>> > Meanwhile, La Coordinadora, aided by the local College of Economists,
>> >began to scrutinize both the contract and the finances behind the water
>> >company's new owners. While the actual financial arrangements remain mostly
>> >hidden, the city's leading daily newspaper reported that investors paid the
>> >government less than $20,000 of upfront capital for a water system worth
>> > Amid charges of corruption and collusion in the contract by some of the
>> >officials who approved it last year, La Coordinadora announced what it
>> >called la última batalla (the final battle), demanding that the government
>> >break the contract and return the water system to public hands. The group
>> >set Tuesday as the deadline for action.
>> > Government water officials warned that private investors were needed to
>> >secure the millions of dollars needed to expand this growing region's water
>> >system. They argued that breaking the contract would entitle the owners to
>> >a $12 million compensation fee, and pleaded for public patience to give the
>> >new owners time to show the benefits of their experience.
>> > Among the vast majority of Cochabamba water users, however, that patience
>> >had run out. Two weeks ago, an inquiry surveyed more than 60,000 local
>> >residents about the water issue and more than 90 percent voted that the
>> >government should break the contract. During one of the marches this week
>> >protesters stopped at the water company's offices, tearing down the new
>> >``Aguas del Tunari'' sign erected just three months ago.
>> > Tuesday, city residents took to the street with bicycles and soccer balls
>> >-- only a few cars moved across town to take advantage of the day off from
>> >work and school. By Wednesday, armies of people from the surrounding rural
>> >areas, fighting a parallel battle over a new law threatening popular
>> >control of rural water systems, began arriving, reinforcing the road
>> >blockades, and puncturing car and bicycle tires. Thursday night, with
>> >another day of wages lost and no sign of movement from the government,
>> >public anger started to erupt.
>> >Protesters arrested
>> > A crowd of nearly 500 surrounded the government building where
>> >negotiations, convened by the Roman Catholic archbishop, were taking place
>> >between protest leaders and government officials. In the middle of
>> >negotiations, the government ordered the arrest of 15 La Coordinadora
>> >leaders and others present in the meeting.
>> > ``We were talking with the mayor, the governor, and other civil leaders
>> >when the police came in and arrested us,'' said Olivera, La Coordinadora's
>> >most visible leader. ``It was a trap by the government to have us all
>> >together, negotiating, so that we could be arrested.''
>> > In response, thousands of city and rural residents filled the city's
>> >central plaza opposite the government building, carrying sticks, rocks and
>> >handkerchiefs to help block the anticipated tear gas. Television and radio
>> >reports speculated all day that the president would declare martial law,
>> >and there were reports of army units arriving at the city's airport.
>> > Freed from jail early Friday morning, the leaders of water protests agreed
>> >to a 4 p.m. meeting with the government, called by the archbishop. At 5
>> >p.m., government officials still had not arrived and the plaza crowd waited
>> >tensely for the expected arrival of the army.
>> > Suddenly and unexpectedly, the archbishop walked into the meeting and
>> >announced that the government had just told him that it had agreed to break
>> >the water contract. Jubilant La Coordinadora leaders crossed the street to
>> >a third-floor balcony, announcing the victory to the thousands waiting
>> >below, many waving the red-green-and-yellow Bolivian flag, as the bells of
>> >the city's cathedral echoed through the city center.
>> >"We have arrived at the moment of an important economic victory," Olivera
>> >told the ecstatic crowd.
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