The Bolivian government, under pressure from the World Bank to privatize water utilities, contracted with Aguas del Tunari, the major shareholder of which is Bechtel subsidiary International Water Ltd., to run the water system of Cochabamba, a water-starved region in central Bolivia. At the time, Cochabamba was served by an old and decaying system that did not reach areas of the countryside where many peasants lived. Aguas del Tunari, when it took over the system, raised rates, to up to three times what they had been, and began charging peasants for water they drew from their own wells. The government, in compliance with its contract with the company, passed a law that prohibited people from collecting water from local lagoons, rivers, and deltas, and even rainwater. The company confiscated people's alternative water systems, without compensation, and placed them under its control. All of these actions, including the rate increases—which imposed severe hardship on many—were justified by the company as necessary to meet contractually mandated profit levels.
People organized in the city and in the countryside, and demanded that the company leave, which it did, eventually, but only after bloody confrontations between citizens and the police and military.
The water corporation was deprivatized and returned to the people of Cochabamba. The nonprofit corporation, with a board of directors composed of local officials and representatives from unions and professional associations, is "not only transparent, but more just, more efficient, and encouraging of participation of the people in the solution to their problems."
Joel Bakan, The Corporation (2004)
Keywords: arrogance, brutality, Bechtel Corporation, corporations, corporocracy, corruption, democracy, deprivatization, directors, plutocracy, privatization, rapacity, republic, World Bank