compiled by Alice
Privately run water concessions in Latin America have a terrible track record. The most notorious example occurred with a project imposed by the World Bank in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Bank made delivery of a loan conditional on the privatization of the country’s largest water systems. When the Cochabamba water services concession ran by the US-based Bechtel Corporation raised household water bills by 200 percent, it sparked a civil uprising that forced the company to leave the country and the water system to be put under public control (Censored 2001, #1).
After Cochabamba, the World Bank retired the word “privatization” and replaced it with terms like “concessions” and “decentralization,” or “private sector participation.” But critics say whatever the euphemism, the end result is the same: higher rates, lower quality, and less access.
Salvadoran police violently captured community leaders and residents at a July 2007 demonstration against the privatization of El Salvador’s water supply and distribution systems. Close range shooting of rubber bullets and tear gas was used against community members for protesting the rising cost, and diminishing access and quality, of local water under privatization. Fourteen were arrested and charged with terrorism, a charge that can hold a sixty-year prison sentence, under El Salvador’s new “Anti-terrorism Law,” which is based on the USA PATRIOT Act. While criminalization of political expression and social protest signals an alarming danger to the peace and human rights secured by Salvadorans since its brutal twelve-year civil war, the US government publicly supports the Salvadoran government and the passage of the draconian anti-terrorism law that took effect October 2006.
Salvadorans, however, maintain that fighting for water is a right, not a crime.
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