Three Hegemon's blog
Bechtel vs. Bolivia


Contact Me
postings list
Links page
July Pages
June Pages
May pages
What does Three Hegemons mean?
US unilateralism
War on Terrorism
Crisis of the US capitalist model
Latin America
WTO and other international organizations


Bechtel Sues Bolivia
WASHINGTON - August 29 - More than three hundred
> citizens groups from 41
> >countries presented a petition today to a World
> Bank-affiliated court,
> >demanding that it allow public participation in a
> controversial case in
> >which Bechtel Corporation is suing Bolivia for $25
> million. (Petition and
> >support letter available at:
> >ID=435)
> >
> >Bechtel is suing South America's poorest country for
> a portion of the
> >profits it wasn't able to earn after a public
> uprising in response to
> >Bechtel's water rate hikes forced the company to
> depart from the country in
> >April 2000. Bechtel's legal action is being heard by
> the International
> >Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes
> (ICSID), an international
> >tribunal housed at the World Bank that holds all of
> its meetings in secret.
> >
> >"Bechtel is demanding $25 million dollars from some
> of the poorest families
> >in the world," said Oscar Olivera, a leader of the
> coalition of Bolivian
> >peasants, workers and others that formed in
> opposition to Bechtel. "The fact
> >that a World Bank court is preparing to hear this
> case behind closed doors,
> >without any public scrutiny or participation, is a
> clear example of how
> >global economic rules are being rigged to benefit
> large corporations at the
> >expense of everyone else."
> >
> >A wide range of groups joined in the demand to open
> up the process. They
> >include trade union organizations (e. g., the 2.5
> million-member Canadian
> >Labour Congress and Public Services International,
> which represents services
> >sector workers around the world); environmental
> groups (e. g., Friends of
> >the Earth); consumer organizations (e. g., consumers
> associations of Canada,
> >Japan and Zambia and U. S.-based Public Citizen);
> research groups (e. g.,
> >Institute for Policy Studies in Washington,
> Transnational Institute in
> >Amsterdam, and the Integrated Social Development
> Centre in Accra); and
> >numerous religious institutions (e. g., Maryknoll
> Fathers and Brothers in
> >Peru and the American Friends Service Committee); as
> well as noted authors
> >Naomi Klein, Maude Barlow and Vandana Shiva.
> >
> >The groups called on the panel to make all of the
> documents and meetings in
> >the case public, to travel to Bolivia to receive
> public testimony, and to
> >allow Bolivian civic leaders to be an equal party to
> the case.
> >
> >The citizen's letter will be accompanied by a formal
> "petition to
> >participate" by Olivera and other Bolivian civic
> leaders to the ICSID
> >tribunal hearing the case. The tribunal is comprised
> of one member appointed
> >by Bechtel, one appointed by the Bolivian government
> and a third, its
> >president, appointed directly by World Bank President
> James Wolfensohn. The
> >ICSID panel is scheduled to hold its first hearing
> sometime in early
> >September (though Bank officials say they are barred
> from disclosing exactly
> >when or where the hearing will take place).
> >
> >The legal team representing the Bolivian petitioners
> includes Oakland,
> >CA-based Earthjustice and the Washington, DC-based
> Center for International
> >Environmental Law, both of which have been involved
> in attempts to intervene
> >in similar investor-state lawsuits filed under the
> North American Free Trade
> >Agreement.
> >
> >
> >In the late 1990s the World Bank forced Bolivia to
> privatize the public
> >water system of its third-largest city, Cochabamba,
> by threatening to
> >withhold debt relief and other development
> assistance. In 1999, in a process
> >with just one bidder, Bechtel, the California-based
> engineering giant, was
> >granted a 40-year lease to take over Cochabamba's
> water, through a
> >subsidiary the corporation formed for just that
> purpose ("Aguas del
> >Tunari").
> >
> >Within weeks of taking over the water system, Bechtel
> imposed huge rate
> >hikes on local water users. Families living on the
> local minimum wage of $60
> >per month were given bills equal to as much as 25
> percent of their monthly
> >income. The rate hikes sparked massive citywide
> protests that the Bolivian
> >government sought to end by declaring a state of
> martial law and the
> >deployment of thousands of soldiers and police. More
> than a hundred people
> >were injured and one 17-year-old boy was killed. In
> April 2000, as
> >anti-Bechtel protests continued to grow, the
> company's managers abandoned
> >the project.
> >
> >Bechtel filed the legal action against Bolivia last
> November, demanding
> >compensation of $25 million, a figure that represents
> far more than
> >Bechtel's investment in the few months it operated in
> Bolivia. Bechtel's
> >action also aims to recoup a portion of the company's
> expected profits from
> >the project. The company filed the case with ICSID
> under a bilateral
> >investment treaty between the Netherlands and
> Bolivia. Although Bechtel is a
> >U. S. corporation, it established a P. O. box
> presence in the Netherlands in
> >order to make use of the treaty.
> >
> >The rules in the Dutch-Bolivian treaty are similar to
> those in NAFTA and the
> >proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. According
> to Sarah Anderson,
> >Director of the Global Economy Project at the
> Institute for Policy Studies
> >in Washington, DC, "There's been an outpouring of
> international support for
> >the Bolivian petitioners in this case. So many people
> have become familiar
> >with such investor-state lawsuits from the NAFTA
> experience and they see
> >them as one of the most extreme examples of excessive
> power granted to
> >corporations." According to Anderson, "The Bechtel v
> Bolivia case could be a
> >preview of what is to come if the FTAA is enacted.
> That agreement would give
> >foreign investors throughout the hemisphere the right
> to sue governments
> >directly over laws or regulations that might diminish
> their profits."
> >
> >__________________________________________________
> >
> >Corporate, World Bank and Bolivia contacts:
> >
> >Bechtel Corporation: Jock Covey External Affairs
> Department Bechtel
> >Headquarters San Francisco, CA
> >(415) 768 5444
> >
> >ICSID: Claudia Frutos-Peterson Counsel handling the
> case World Bank
> >Washington, DC
> >(202) 458-7930
> >
> >World Bank James Wolfensohn President Washington, DC
> >(202) 473-1000 [note: This is the World Bank's
> general #]
> >
> >Government of Bolivia Alberto Valdes Charges
> d'Affaires in the Bolivian
> >Embassy in Washington, DC
> >(202) 483-4410
> >
> >__________________

Enter supporting content here