archivos de los protestos globales
archives of global protests



Volume 42 - January 17, 2002

Dear Readers,

Here is the question.  Can one of the world's most powerful corporations
come to one of the world's poorest countries, do unconscionable damage, lie
about it, and then get away with lying?  The answer may well depend on
whether you are willing to take about half a minute of your time to help.

As you know, in December I sent an e-mail to Riley Bechtel, CEO and
chairman of Bechtel Enterprises, calling on him to drop his company's $25
million legal action against the people of Bolivia.  More than 100 other
Democracy Center readers also sent e-mails to Bechtel.  This forced an
official response from the company's public relations department, in which
the company outright lied about the enormous price hikes it imposed on
people here.  Not only that, Bechtel tried to peddle the same false
information to my editors at Pacific News Service in an effort to block
publication of an article I wrote on events here.  Despite Bechtel's
efforts, that article was syndicated nationwide and ran on January 14 in
the Sacramento Bee.


Not only do we know Bechtel is lying, we can prove it and we have now
posted that evidence on our web site available for all who wish to view it:


There you will find actual before-and-after copies of people's water bills,
documenting Bechtel's increases.  You will also find a full computer
analysis of Bechtel's price hikes conducted by the current water company,
as well as my letter to Bechtel, Bechtel's response and a host of other
documents.  Believe me, this is about 10 times more detail than anyone
would ever want to know about water rates in Bolivia - but in the detail
lies the proof that Bechtel is willing to lie to both press and public in
order to avoid responsibility for what they did here.


Here's what you can do and it will take you about 30 seconds to do it (I
timed it):

1) Highlight and copy the text below:

Dear Mr. Bechtel,

I am writing to express my strong objections to your company's legal
actions against the Bolivian people.  The Democracy Center has now
documented for all to see how your company has falsified information about
the water price hikes it imposed on poor families.  If you and your company
have any integrity in this matter you will drop your $25 million demand
against Bolivia and instead issue an apology to the Bolivian people for the
damage you have caused and the public for the misinformation you have spread.


2) Click on the address link below:

This will automatically open a message to Mr. Bechtel's personal e-mail, to
his public relations department and will also send a copy to The Democracy
Center.  Paste the text above into your message, adding a subject line,
your name and any other comments you'd like to make.,,

As the Enron debacle reminds us how willing some corporate leaders are to
falsify facts in order to fatten their profits, here is a chance for us to
hold one corporate leader directly and personally accountable, before the
damage is done.  Please do this now and please share this note with others
who might be willing to do the same.  Below is the full text of my own
letter to Mr. Bechtel, being delivered to him by e-mail today as well.

Thank you,

Jim Shultz
The Democracy Center



Dear Mr. Bechtel,

In December, when I wrote to you concerning your company's legal actions
against the people of Bolivia, I did so in good faith.  I presumed you to
be a gentleman of integrity who would be willing to engage those concerned
in an honest discourse about the issues at hand.  The response released on
your behalf by your public relations department makes it clear that such is
not the case.  To the contrary, what is clear is that Bechtel Enterprises
is hoping to deflect this mater with deliberately false and misleading
statements about the facts at hand.  To be clear, this is not a difference
of interpretation.  What Bechtel has done in this matter is provide both
the public and the media with documentably false information.


Here is what Ms. Gail Apps, your spokeswoman, claimed as fact, on your
behalf, in a statement issued on January 3, 2002:

      "For the poorest people in Cochabamba rates went up little, barely 10

      "Unfortunately, water bills sometimes went up a lot more than rates.
That's because as Aguas del Tunari improved service, increasing the hours
of water service and the pressure at which it was delivered, people used a
lot more water."

Enclosed you will find a detailed comparison analysis of water rates
carried out by the current public water company, using the very same
computer data that your company used to calculate its water rates and
bills.  You will also find annotated copies of actual water bills issued by
your company at the start of 2000 which clearly show rate increases for the
poorest families in Bolivia not of 10% but of 60% and in some cases much
higher.  In summary, this documentation demonstrates the following:

1) Based on the same identical rates of water consumption (not increases as
you claim) your company raised rates for the very poorest families in
Cochabamba, people living well-below minimum wage, by an average of, not
10%, but 43%.  In the next category, families that are still poor, but
perhaps earning a minimum wage, suffered rate increases of 40%.  These are
averages.  In some cases the rates charged were even higher, much higher.

2) In clear examples, documented with the enclosed before-and-after water
bills, these price hikes for individual families are made clear.  Lucio
Morales' household, classified among the very poorest in Cochabamba, had
his water bill raised from $4.15 to $6.63, a jump of 60% and a total bill
amounting to more than 10% of the monthly minimum wage at the time.  This
increase was based on no change in water consumption.  An identical price
hike by your company is shown for the Jose Aramayo household, another
classified as among the city's poorest.

3) In direct conflict with your claims that the price hikes were the result
of increased water use, enclosed are before-and-after water bills for the
household of Mr. Saturnine Marin, in the category typical for families
living at the minimum wage - less that $60 at the time. Your company raised
his monthly rates from $14.75 to $21.96 (a leap of nearly 50%) even though
his family's water consumption actually decreased by 18%.

4) According to a computer analysis using your company's own pricing data,
your company's forced departure from Bolivia and the restoration of the
prior water rates saved the residents of Cochabamba saved more than $3.4
million in 2001, money left in the pockets of the families that live here
instead of paid out to your Bolivian water subsidiary.


Again, on your behalf, Ms. Apps seeks to mislead the press and public by
minimizing Bechtel's ownership role in Aguas del Tunari:

    "We cannot speak for the seven different owners of the Aguas del Tunari   

Let us be clear then about the facts of Bechtel's shell game in this
matter.  From the inception of the Bolivian water company through this day,
the controlling, majority stakeholder in the company (with 55% of all
shares) has been International Waters Limited (IWL) of London.  That
company, as you well know, was formed in 1996, wholly owned by Bechtel.
During the time in which IWL was negotiating with the Bolivian government
and in which it signed the contract to take over Cochabamba's water in
September 1999, IWL was also wholly-owned by Bechtel.  That means that
Bechtel, not some other company, is responsible for the debacle the company
instigated here.  That means that you, not some other CEO, must bear
responsibility for it.  To be clear even further, even though Bechtel sold
50% of its interest in IWL after its takeover of water in Bolivia, your
company still retains 50% ownership in IWL.  Translated, that means that no
other single company or investor has a larger stake, even now, in Aguas del
Tunari than you do.  Pretending to just be a small minority shareholder is
just one more exercise in trying to avoid the responsibility that Bechtel
must bear.

The additional claims made on your behalf have no more credibility.  The
widespread public protests that occurred here in Cochabamba in January to
April 2000 - in which police killed one youth and injured hundreds of
others to protect your contract - were not about coca growing or police
salaries, as you claim.  They were about your water rates.  Bechtel's
feigned concern for Bolivia's water problems is no less transparent.  If
that concern were anything other than a cynical public relations ploy,
Bechtel would not now be trying to squeeze from Bolivia's poor $25 million
you never invested, never earned and are not entitled to receive.

One of the most important ways in which individuals and corporations define
their character is whether they tell the truth, and most especially whether
they tell the truth when it is hard.  Bechtel Enterprises, the company that
bears your father's name, has failed that test and failed it gravely.  Be
assured that your company's willingness to falsify the facts in this matter
will be shared appropriately with the International Center for Settlement
of International Disputes (ICSID), the arbitration panel to which you have
made your demand against the Bolivian people.  If Bechtel Enterprises is
willing to make such false claims in public, one can only wonder what it is
wiling to claim in a closed-door arbitration.

If integrity is of any value to you and your company, I strongly urge you
to drop your legal action against the Bolivian people and to issue, not a
demand for money, but an apology for the suffering and damage your
company's presence has brought to the people and families who live here.


	Jim Shultz
	Executive Director
	The Democracy Center
	Cochabamba, Bolivia


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