Martial law deaths
in Bolivia -- How you can help
Later -- Resisters tricked into ‘negotiating,’ then arrested
Sunday, April 9th, Cochabamba, Bolivia
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 centre.
Jim Shultz <JShultz@democracyctr.org
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Last night, an attempt was frustrated to pacify the city. The Church did not want to sign a document, drafted by several institutions, that 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.
|From: Jim Shultz <JShultz@democracyctr.org
Sent: Sunday, April 09, 2000 1:40 PM
Subject: MARTIAL LAW IN BOLIVIA - HOW YOU CAN HELP
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 in the absence of 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (415) 768-1234 Fax: (415) 768-9038; Address: 50 Beale Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, United States of America
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 honour the wishes of Bolivians and bring the crisis to an end by immediately 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 others are receiving this message today. Even 100 e-mails or 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.
Jim Shultz, The Democracy Center, JShultz@democracyctr.org
E-MAIL SENT TO A MULTINATIONAL'S SENIOR MAN
Mr Riley Bechtel, Chairman and CEO, Bechtel Corp email@example.com Wednesday, 12 April 2000 6:17
BOLIVIAN LOCALS MUST OWN WATER AND FOOD
Dear Mr Bechtel,
Bolivian local people must own the water and have the capacity to grow their own food. It is morally wrong for a foreign group, whether a government or a government-backed company or a company without government backing, to take the ownership and control of water from the people who live in the country.
(It is also wrong to take the land, and the capacity to grow food, away from local control.)
And, how about the fact that the first news reports said it was an Italian company, and only deeper delving by the journalists traced it back to Bechtel? Clever, eh?
Is your company linked to the people who wanted to force Canada to sell water from the Great Lakes to be carted to California, and when a Province refused, then put in a big claim for billions of dollars?
Is there a conscience anywhere on your Board of Directors? Are any of your shareholders short of food, clothing, etc.? If so, send me proof and I will take up a collection to help them.
You ought to be even MORE ashamed that police being paid $75 to $100 a month are being ordered to molest and even kill farmers who are blockading roads to protest at 35% increases in water prices! Surely private enterprise ought to be so efficient that the cost of paying dividends to shareholders ought to be easily covered by better methods.
Do any of YOUR shareholders try to live on $75 to $100 a month? Let me know their names and addresses, and I will pass the details on to the Freedom From Hunger Campaign, so that they might receive aid. -- John Massam
*** John Massam
46 Cobine Way, Greenwood (a suburb of Perth),
WA, 6024, Australia
[+61 8] (08) 9343 9532; Mobile 0408 054 319
English: Social Justice and Economic Freedom.
Esperanto: Sociala Justeco kaj Ekonomika Libereco.
Français: Justice sociale et liberté économique.
Deutsch: Sozialgerechtigkeit und wirtschaftliche Unabhängigkeit.
Italiano: Giustizia sociale e libertà economica.
Português: Justiça social e liberdade econômica.
Español: Justicia social y libertad económica. ***
From: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tuesday, 11 April 2000 12:13
Subject: The Bolivian water privatization contract
I'm still amazed by the limited coverage given by commercial media to the public opposition -- and the resulting martial law imposed by the Bolivian government - to the privatization agreement entered into under neoliberal economic principles.
Yes, the martial law was only imposed on Friday -- but there had been a week of public "disturbance" which probably ended after the Archbishop said the IWL had been persuaded to withdraw from the deal -- apparently with the concurrence of the local representatives of the administration. But then the government found truth, declared that it would not allow IWL to withdraw -- because of the need to "guarantee the rights of foreign investors."
One of the details not mentioned in the below contract is that IWL had to provide up-front payment of $320 million , but that the administration had only received $20 million -- IWL took over management at the end of 1999 and immediately imposed massive increases for water and sewer services -- which is what led to the public opposition.
IWL-Led Consortium Signs Agreement for Major Bolivian Water Concession
COCHABAMBA, Bolivia--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 11, 1999--The Aguas del Tunari Consortium, led by International Water Limited (IWL), announced that it has signed a 40 year concession agreement with the Republic of Bolivia to provide potable water and sewer services for the City of Cochabamba, and to supply water for irrigation and the generation of electrical energy for the Cochabamba Valley.
"We are pleased to have been selected to manage the water and wastewater services concession for the City of Cochabamba", said Didier Quint, Managing Director for International Water Limited. "We intend to enhance the water delivery system in the region in a way that supports agricultural and economic development while protecting key environmental and community assets."
The project will involve the following features:
Operation and expansion of the municipal water and waste water system.
Development of a raw water supply project which will add new sources of potable and agricultural water.
Construction of an electricity generation project of 40 MWe.
The City of Cochabamba is the third largest city in Bolivia with an estimated population of 600,000 people, growing in recent years at a rate of 4% annually. At the present time, SEMAPA, the municipal water and wastewater utility, has insufficient raw water to serve its network. The agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors in the city are all hindered in their growth due to lack of a sustainable supply of water.
The IWL-led consortium, Aguas del Tunari, will raise coverage for both potable water and sewerage connections to 93% or better by year 5 of the concession period. To accomplish this, the Consortium is expected to make capital investments of more than $180 million during the first phase of the project (years 1-5) and an additional $140 million for the balance of the concession. Aguas del Tunari will assume operation of the Cochabamba concession on 1 October 1999.
"We intend to provide high quality service to the customers of Aguas del Tunari and to build a strong relationship with the local community and government of Bolivia", said Don O'Shei, Chief Operating Officer of International Water Ltd. "We want to demonstrate our commitment to becoming an integral part of the community we serve."
Aguas de Tunari is owned by International Water Limited of the U.K., Abengoa Servicios Urbano of Spain, and four Bolivian companies -- Sociedad Boliviana de Cementos, ICE Ingenieros, Compania Boliviana de Ingenieria and Constructora Petricevich S.A.
International Water Limited (IWL) is an affiliate of Bechtel Enterprises Holdings, Inc., the project development, finance, ownership, and asset management entity of the Bechtel organization, a major international engineering and construction company headquartered in San Francisco, California, in the United States.
Abengoa Servicios Urbano (ASU) is a Spanish applied engineering and equipment firm whose activities include the promotion and development of infrastructure projects. Abengoa's net worth approximates $250 million and over 25% of their revenues are generated in Latin America.
The four Bolivian companies are all in the engineering and construction business. Each has participated in various projects sponsored by either the private or public sector in the country.
CONTACT: International Water Ltd., Tim Lowe, 44-171-766-5100
From: MichaelP <email@example.com> Date: Tuesday, 11 April 2000 10:42 Subject: Demonizing Bolivian victims of water privatization
This story seems to be disappearing from the news -- not that the the role of the privatizers, the enforcers of "new" economic policies got much publicity anyway. Maybe this Bolivian "problem" is just minor when compared with what the enforcers have achieved in the last few decades ! -- Michael
Agence France Presse, Tuesday, April 11 3:09 AM SGT
Tension mounts in Bolivia over water prices
LA PAZ, April 10 (AFP) -- Military troops reinforced their control of roads in the high Andean region of Bolivia Monday as tens of thousands of Bolivian peasants, armed with broomsticks and machetes, occupied the city square in Cochabamba, protesting the government's water policy.
The protesters, who marched in from the nearby town of Quillacollo, demanded the government change its Basic Sanitation and Sewer Law, which seeks to privatize water use in indigenous communities, according to peasant leader Alberto Zapata.
In response, the government took control of roads around the country to prevent protesters from putting up road blocks.
"As of now, we have nothing new to report, but we cannot dismiss the possibility of new road blocks" Admiral Jorge Zabala said Monday.
Bolivian Information Minister, Ronald MacLean, denounced the "subversive" character of the demonstrations, accusing them of being "financed by drug traffickers."
"This is nothing but an excuse to trouble the country," he said, adding that "in light of the lack of security," the government had canceled plans to send a delegation in to talk with the demonstrators.
The increased military deployment came after violent weekend clashes between civilians and the military that left five dead, including a soldier, and some 40 people injured.
Zapata declared the national farmworkers' union was ready to negotiate with the government, but warned that "if that fails, we will maintain our road blocks."
Over the weekend, at least five people were killed and dozens injured in clashes between civilians and military around La Paz and Cochabamba, which lies 450 kilometers (300 miles) southeast of the capital.
The unrest centered in Achacachi, La Paz and Cochabamba, Bolivia's second-largest city, where public dissatisfaction over rising water prices turned into a massive strike and protests last week when the government announced a controversial plan to build a dam nearby.
On Monday, the British-Spanish-Bolivian water consortium Aguas del Tunari pulled out of their contract to build the dam, costing the government some 10 million dollars, according to the country's Water Superintendent Luis Uzin.
On Saturday, the Bolivian government declared a 90-day state of emergency hoping to end the intensifying conflicts. But the move only sparked more clashes between protesters and authorities.
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 Suarez 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.
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.
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 millions.
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.
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 centre.
"We have arrived at the moment of an important economic victory,"
Olivera told the ecstatic crowd.
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