The Bechtel Corporation
Founded in 1898, San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation is the world's largest engineering and construction company, responsible for such high-profile projects as the Hoover Dam and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Bechtel is currently affiliated with projects in over 60 countries.18 According to FORBES Magazine, Bechtel had an annual revenue of $14.3 billion in 2000.19
The link between Bechtel and the Cochabamba water revolt is London-based International Water Ltd., a company co-owned by the Bechtel Corporation and the Italian utilities giant Edison SpA. International Water Ltd. currently has projects in Australia, Poland, the Philippines and Bulgaria, providing wastewater treatment and distribution of potable water.20 In 1999, it was the majority shareholder in a consortium of multinational investors Aguas del Tunari which placed a successful, sole bid to win 40-year concession rights for Cochabamba's water and sanitation system.
After The Democracy Center's Jim Shultz helped reveal Bechtel's connection to the events in Cochabamba, he accused the corporation of greed and principal responsibility for the massive rate hikes imposed upon the city's residents by Aguas del Tunari.21 A Bechtel spokesperson maintained that the Bolivian government had agreed to a maximum 35 percent increase for water in the region and that, moreover, high water bills had more to do with increased consumption than with alleged price gouging.22
In December 2001, the Bechtel Corporation appealed to the World Bank to recoup $25 million in compensation it claims it is owed for the Bolivian government's cancellation of Aguas del Tunari's contract. The corporation denies that it is suing Bolivia, saying that "resolving this issue in an orderly way through an independent body such as ICSID [the World Bank-affiliated International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes] preserves both the rule of law and the incentive for governments to honor agreements..."23
12"The Fight for Water and Democracy: An Interview with Oscar Olivera" (MULTINATIONAL MONITOR, vol.21 no. 6, June 2000)
13"Water Privatization Case Study: Cochabamba, Bolivia", PUBLIC CITIZEN
15"Three Killed in Clash With Police," CNN.com, 4/10/00
16"Water Company Requests ICSID to Arbitrate Dispute with Bolivian Government" (PR Newswire European, 12/13/01)
17"Who Owns Water?", Jennifer Hattam (SIERRA, September 2001)
18"Bechtel Holds Its Own", by Todd Wallack (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 6/25/2001; Bechtel Corporation web site - 'About Us'
20International Water Ltd. (IWL)Wweb site
21"Bolivian Uprisings Flow from Bechtel's Greed", by Jim Shultz (SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, 4/19/00)
22"Bechtel Battles Against Dirt-Poor Bolivia", SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 2/2/2000
23"Bechtel vs. Bolivia - Riley Bechtel's Response", January 2002, THE DEMOCRACY CENTER (online)
Who's Who written by Sheraz Sadiq, Associate producer with FRONTLINE/World