Killings in Bolivia after water take-over increases prices 35%, rulers trick roadblock leaders to arrest them
Land dispossession planned to benefit multinational corporations

LA PAZ (AFP) - - The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency Saturday amid continuing unrest in the central city of Cochabamba and a new protest by members of a police unit in La Paz.

The 90-day state of emergency, which gives President Hugo Banzer special powers to deal with the crisis, may be rescinded when "law and order are re-established", Information Minister Ronald MacLean said.

Agence France Presse : April 8, 2000
From: MichaelP
papadop@peak.org

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"Chaos is beginning to spread just at the moment when the nation is starting a process of economic recovery," MacLean said in a statement.

His declaration comes amid a conflict over a water project in Cochabamba that faces strong opposition from peasants, coca growers and others.  Protesters also have been blocking roads in other parts of Bolivia.

MacLean said an announcement of an end to the protests late Friday was the result of erroneous statement from a local official who indicated that an Italian-Bolivian consortium gave up a contract to build the controversial dam.

From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>  Date: Sunday, 9 April 2000 8:07
Subject: Bolivia - water privatization rate increases lead to protests

What the news reports barely mention is that the Bolivian protests have been set off by increased charges for water supply.  What they don't mention is that the charges follow water privatization and other neoliberal economic changes. SEE FINAL ITEM [of this group, i.e., "American Chamber of Commerce in Bolivia"]. -- MichaelP

MacLean said the local prefect, Hugo Galindo, "overstepped his authority" and had been relieved of his duties and replaced by a police commander for the region.

Adding to the crisis early Saturday was a strike declared by about 100 La Paz police officers in the Special Security Group (GES) seeking wage increases.

The strike began when the officers refused an order to arrest one sergeant and 13 wives of low-ranking police officers who had been on a hunger strike since Monday seeking 150 percent wage hikes.

"We cannot go against our families," one of the officers refusing the orders said.  Other units were sent in to arrest the hunger strikers, who were occupying the Bolivian Workers Union (C.O.B.) headquarters.

================
Bolivian government declares state of siege

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- (AP) -- The government announced a state of siege Saturday to end a week of nationwide road blocks and widespread unrest in the country's third largest city.

Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed throughout Bolivia.

The stage of siege, which will last 90 days, establishes a curfew, suspends constitutional guarantees, allows for the arrest and confinement of labor, political and civic leaders and imposes restrictions on travel and political activity.

Police arrested leaders of a teacher's union and water rights committee that had organized road blocks and protests in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest city with a population of 500,000.

"We find ourselves with a country with access roads to the city blocked, with food shortages, passengers stranded and chaos beginning to take hold in other cities," Information Minister Ronnie MacLean said Saturday.

In Cochabamba, 350 miles east of La Paz, hundreds of protesters headed to the main square Saturday morning, hurling rocks and burning tyres.

Eyewitnesses described the situation in Cochabamba as explosive.

The government's announcement came a day after police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to scatter scores of demonstrators in Cochabamba during protests against an increase in water rates.

Protesters want the government to cancel a 20 percent increase in water rates.  Water service now costs about $30 a month -- as much as 15 percent of some household incomes.  Protesters claim about half of city residents can't afford to hook up to the city system, and are forced to purchase water that is brought in by truck.

The government says the rate increase is needed to fund an expansion of Cochabamba's water supplies, and charges that the protests are politically motivated.

The demonstrations, which began April 2, were quickly supported by peasants who blocked roads around the country to protest new restrictions on the use of rural wells, leaving thousands of travelers stranded.

Food shortages were being felt in La Paz and other cities as a result of the road blocks.

=============
American Chamber of Commerce in Bolivia
Home Page: http://www.bolivianet.com/amcham
ECONOMY

Bolivia's 1998 gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $8.3 billion.

Economic growth is 2.5% a year and inflation declined from 6.7% in 1997 to 3.5% in 1999. The government's 2000 economic program has targeted GDP growth of 5% and an inflation rate below 6%.

Since 1985, the Government of Bolivia has been implementing afar-reaching program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform aimed at restoring price stability, creating conditions for sustained growth, and alleviating poverty. Important components of these structural reform measures include the capitalization of state enterprises and strengthening of the country's financial system.

The most important recent structural changes in the Bolivian economy have involved the capitalization of numerous public sector enterprises.

(Capitalization in the Bolivian context is a form of privatization where investors acquire a 50% stake and management control of public enterprises in return for a commitment to undertake capital expenditures equivalent to the enterprise's net worth).

Parallel legislative reforms have locked into place market-oriented policies, especially in the hydrocarbon and mining sectors, that have encouraged private investment.  Foreign investors are accorded national treatment, and foreign ownership of companies enjoys virtually no restrictions in Bolivia.  As a consequence of these measures, 1996 private investment surged by 25% to an estimated $225 million and in 1998 it exceeded $1 billion the privatization program has generated commitments of $1.7 billion in foreign direct investment over the period 1996-2002.

In 1996, three units of the Bolivian state oil corporation (YPFB) involved in hydrocarbon exploration, production, and transportation were capitalized.  The capitalization of YPFB allowed agreement to be reached on the construction of a gas pipeline to Brazil.  A priority in the development strategy for the sector is the expansion of export markets for natural gas. The government intends to maintain its current contract for gas exports to Argentina through 1999.

The contract to construct a pipeline to Brazil projects natural gas exports of 8 million cubic metres per day (cmd) by 1999, increasing to 16 million cmd by the eighth year of operation.  The Bolivian Government has signed a financing contract for the Bolivian side of the gas pipeline with Petrobras and the capitalization of YPFB's transportation company will facilitate the finance, construction, and operation of the pipeline.  The government plans to position Bolivia as a regional hub for exporting hydrocarbons.

Six smaller public enterprises were sold during 1996, and the Government of Bolivia has taken steps to improve the efficiency of some public services through concession contracts with private sector managers.  All three major airports were transferred to private managers in March 1997, and a water supply company was transferred to a private operator in June 1997.  Also, by the end of 1996, almost all customs posts were under private management.

By May 1996, three of the four Bolivian banks that had experienced difficulties in 1995 were recapitalized and restructured under new ownership with support from the Bolivian Government's Special Fund for Strengthening the Financial System (FONDESIF), which helped restore confidence in the banking system.  In November 1996,the Bolivian Congress approved a comprehensive pension reform that replaces the old pay-as-you-go system by a system of privately-managed, individually-funded retirement accounts, and the new system began operations in May 1997.  The reform represents a major step toward lasting fiscal consolidation in Bolivia.

======================  #####
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>  Date: Sunday, 9 April 2000 10:20 Subject: Bolivia - pre-emergency news

Of course, the later news is that the Bolivian government imposed martial law, so that it may turn out that the below news item - about the reversal of a water privatization scheme - may be re-written so as to show a better result for neoliberal policy. -- Cheers, MichaelP

==========================
Agence France Presse, Saturday, April 8 9:44 AM SGT

Strike lifted in one Bolivian city

LA PAZ, April 7 (AFP) - The regional strike that had paralyzed the Bolivian city of Cochabamba for several days was lifted Friday after an Italian-Bolivian consortium gave up a contract to build a controversial dam, a Roman Catholic Church spokesman announced.

Father Miguel Manzaneda announced on a local radio station that "Cochabamba is like a party" with celebration in the streets after the conflict was resolved, although union leader Oscar Olivera announced that the civic organizations remained in a state of alert.

The priest, who praised the role of the church in negotiating a settlement, said "the leaders of the Water Co-ordinator understood that there was no reason to maintain the pressure that was causing the vandalous acts."

The social crisis had intensified Friday after the military occupied the town of Cochabamba and detained some 25 union leaders, who were later freed at the insistence of the Catholic Church, which was acting as a mediator in the four-day-old strike.

Troops were deployed in the city near dawn on Friday after 1,000 protesters, most of them coca farmers and others opposed to the dam project, surrounded a local government office and blocked its main entrance Thursday as senior officials were to meet there to discuss how to end the strike.

Later, information minister Ronald MacLean had to deny rumors that the government was considering declaring a "state of siege" and limiting constitutional freedoms after protesters reacted angrily to the military presence.

The protest, which climaxed Thursday when the demonstrators put up wire barricades and besieged officials at the building's entrance, was the most serious expression of social discontent since Hugo Banzer became president three years ago.

The Water Coordinator, which comprises social and union groups, as well as many Cochabamba residents are opposed to the government giving a contract to an Italian firm to build a dam in the area.

In January, hundreds of protesters were injured and dozens detained after eight hours of clashes with police and military units, in an incident also stemming from the water conflict.

In addition to the conflict in Cochabamba, Banzer's government is facing road blocks in six of Bolivia's nine provinces, organized by the powerful Single Union for Rural Workers Confederation.

The confederation's executive secretary, Felipe Quispe, said that rural workers would continue to block roads indefinitely in response to the "government's indifference."

Its members oppose privatization of water resources and the concentration of land ownership in a few hands, Quispe said.

Their blockade, which started Monday has prevented more than 400 million dollars worth of goods from being delivered in the affected regions, said Trade Minister Carlos Saavedra.

======================  #####
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>  Date: Monday, 10 April 2000 2:27  Subject: Bolivia and water privatization

Shootings in the name of Bechtel!!

On Friday - the Church reps reported that the water companies were backing out of the privatization contract.

But the government won't let them !!  It's a law-'n-order matter.  "The government is refusing to climb down on the waterworks contract with Aguas del Tunari -- a consortium led by London- based International Water Limited (IWL) -- saying it must guarantee the rights of foreign investors."

"The chaos has begun to spread ... just at the moment in which we are beginning an important economic reactivation plan." --  Cheers, Michael

=========================
Reuters - reported in Financial Times, London, April 9, 2000

Protests in Bolivia against water price increases claimed two lives on Saturday and about two dozen demonstrators were jailed after the government declared a state of siege to quell a week of disturbances.

Police said a teacher was shot and killed when the military tried to clear a highway running from the capital, La Paz, to Oruro which had been blocked for five days by peasants.

They said a youth was shot and killed during violent protests in the central city of Cochabamba, but they did not say who was responsible for the shooting.

Information Minister Ronald MacLean said two protest leaders, Felipe Quispe and Fredd [sic ?] Nunez, were among more than 20 union members and civic activists arrested in La Paz, Cochabamba and Sucre.

The government announced the state of emergency in the landlocked Andean nation of eight million people on Friday night after a week of protests over waterworks projects and planned legislation that will lead to higher water prices.

"We see it as our obligation, in the common best interest, to decree a state of emergency to protect law and order," President Hugo Banzer said in a statement.

He said the 90-day state of emergency, giving him special powers to deploy police and the military, was needed to protect "efforts for social dialogue" and to ensure "the great effort towards economic reactivation is not set back further".

"The chaos has begun to spread ... just at the moment in which we are beginning an important economic reactivation plan," said Banzer, the fourth consecutive democratically-elected president to declare a state of siege in Bolivia.

The move has to be ratified by Congress, where the ruling party controls the majority.

Early on Saturday security forces raided the headquarters of the Bolivian Workers' Central Union (COB) and took away the wives of 13 police officers who were on a hunger strike to push for better wages for their husbands.

At least 10 civic leaders were arrested in Cochabamba, the scene of violent protests during the week against the $200 million waterworks project which could raise water rates by 35 percent.

The government is refusing to climb down on the waterworks contract with Aguas del Tunari -- a consortium led by London- based International Water Limited (IWL) -- saying it must guarantee the rights of foreign investors.

A large military operation has begun to clear highways in five provinces of roadblocks set up by peasants to press the government to relent on a bill being debated in Congress that could force them to pay for water they now obtain for free.

Tear gas was fired on Friday at thousands of demonstrators in downtown Cochabamba and peasant leader Felipe Quispe promised the protests would intensify over the weekend.

Waldo Albarracin, the influential president of the local human rights assembly, said he saw no justification for declaring a state of emergency.

"Now we wait and see if the situation does not deteriorate into human rights abuses," he told reporters.

IWL is jointly owned by Italian utility Edison and U.S. company Bechtel Enterprise Holdings.

======================  #####
From: Bob Olsen <bobolsen@interlog.com>  To: mai-not@flora.org <mai-not@flora.org>
Date: Monday, 10 April 2000 8:01 Subject: Bolivia martial law, water privatization, Apr 8, 2000

Bolivia under martial law because of water privatization

Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 02:29:11 +1200  From: Jim Gladwin <greenleaf@ak.planet.gen.nz>  Subject: BOLIVIA - WATER PROTESTS TRIGGER MARTIAL LAW!

Date: Sat, 08 Apr 2000 13:58:57 -0400   From: Thomas Kruse <tkruse@albatros.cnb.net>  To: JShultz@democracyctr.org

Subject: URGENT MESSAGE FROM JIM SHULTZ

Dear Friends:

Just a few hours ago Bolivia was declared under martial law.  People are being arrested, the army is occupying the streets, human rights offices are being invaded by government agents, radio stations are being closed by the military and huge sections of the city have had their electrical power cut (I had to leave home to find a computer that was still charged to write this).

The situation is grave and we need help to get the story out.

Please share the brief article below as far and wide as you can with anyone who will publish or broadcast it.  My own media list is in a computer which I can't access.  For the time being I can still be reached at 591-4-290-725.  I will try to send updates as the situation allows.  Please do not worry for our safety, my family and I are fine and keeping well away from the violence.  IF YOU RESPOND, PLEASE RESPOND TO THE EMAIL BELOW, NOT THE RETURN ON THIS ONE.

==========
Jim Shultz, The Democracy Center, Jshultz@democracyctr.org
BOLIVIA UNDER MARTIAL LAW

As of 10 am Saturday morning Bolivia was declared under martial law by President Hugo Banzer.  The drastic move comes at the end of a week of protests, general strikes, and transportation blockages that have left major areas of the country at a virtual standstill.

It also follows, by just hours, the surprise announcement by state officials yesterday afternoon that the government would concede to the protests' main demands, to break a widely-despised contract under which the city of Cochabamba's public water system was sold off to foreign investors last year.  The concession was quickly reversed by the national government, and the local governor resigned, explaining that he didn't want to take responsibility for bloodshed that might result.

Banzer, who ruled Bolivia as a dictator from 1971-78, has taken an action that suspends almost all civil rights, disallows gatherings of more than four people and puts severe limits on freedom of the press.  One after another, local radio stations have been taken over by military forces or forced off the air.  Reporters have been arrested.  The neighborhood where most of the city's broadcast antennas are located had its power shut off at approximately noon local time.

Through the night police searched homes for members of the widely-backed water protests, arresting as many as twenty. The local police chief has been installed by the President as governor of the state.  Blockades erected by farmers in rural areas continue across the country, cutting off some cities from food and transportation.

Large crowds of angry residents, many armed with sticks and rocks are massing on the city's center where confrontations with military and police are escalating.

Tom Kruse  Casilla 5812 / Cochabamba, Bolivia  TelFax: (591-4) 248242, 500849  TelCel: 017-22253  Email: tkruse@albatros.cnb.net
_____________________

Forwarded by The Water Pressure Group  http://www.water-pressure-group.org.nz/  email: jimg@pl.net  PO Box 10046, Dominion Road, Auckland, New Zealand; Ph / Fax 0064 09 828 4517; Mobile: 025 2666 552
______________________________


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