Bolivia's War Over Water

Publié le par Pierre W. Johnson

Investigating on the case of Water in Bolivia, I came across the excellent report of Jim Shultz, director of the Democracy Center, wrotten during the conflict over water in Cochabamba, third city of Bolivia in 2000. Jim Shultz was the only foreign reporter in Cochabamba during the major upraising of the whole population of Cochabamba against Aguas de Tunari, a subsidiary of the California-based company Bechtel, which had decided a rise of 200% in the price of water. A family in Cochabamba often owns less than $100 a month, and may have had to pay $15 to $30 on water.

After a movement which involved workers union, several general strikes, during which the city came at a standstill, and attempts of the Hugo Banzer regime to intimidate the population by military occupation, even though the governor of the town had asked the head of state to follow the population's will, the representatives from the US-based company decided to abandon Bolivia, which gave to the government a soft scenario to move out of the social and political crisis. Bechtel then asked Bolivia $25 million in compensations.

A few years later, a massive movement in La Paz against privatization of gas, oil and water led to the victory of left-wing Evo Morales at the end of 2005. The new government decided to create a Ministry of Water, under ex-social leader Abel Mamani, and to have all the water in the country managed by a new public company, operating under strict rules of transparency and accountability. The French company Suez will eventually have to move out of La Paz as well.

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