Bolivian Water Plan Dropped After Protests Turn Into Melees
LA PAZ, Bolivia,
April 10 -- After violent protests in Bolivian cities
on Saturday and Sunday over a bill that would impose charges for
water, an international consortium pulled out of a planned $200 million
waterworks project today.
Five people died
in the violence over the weekend and at least 40 were
injured, the government said today.
About 20 labor
union and civic leaders were arrested in the nationwide
protests, which occurred in response to proposed legislation on water
been set up by peasant unions pressing the government
to relent on a bill in Congress that threatens to make them pay for water
they currently receive free.
Some of the most
violent protests took place in the central city of
Cochabamba, where a multimillion-dollar electricity and drinking water
network was scheduled to be built by Aguas de Tunari, a consortium led
by International Water Limited, based in London, which would increase
water costs by 35 percent.
the third-largest city in the poor landlocked country of
eight million people.
The company is
jointly owned by an Italian utility, Edison, and an
American company, Bechtel Enterprise Holdings.
of the consortium include a Spanish engineering and
construction firm, Abengoa, and two Bolivian companies, ICE Ingenieros
and a cement maker, Soboce.
has decided to pull out of the Misicuni project and the
distribution of water in Cochabamba," Luis Uzin, superintendent of basic
sanitation, said after meeting with Geoffrey Thorpe, chief executive of the
During the protests
over the past week, farmers unions set up roadblocks
on several national highways in five of the nine provinces.
An army captain
and two civilians died in clashes on Sunday in the town
of Achacachi on the Bolivian high plateau, the Catholic Television
Network reported. Seven people were injured in the confrontation as
soldiers tried to remove a roadblock. The town is 60 miles north of the
capital, La Paz.
The captain was
killed by protesters. One of the civilians was a peasant
fighting against soldiers, while the other was a tailor watching the
confrontation, the network said. Both were shot.
a teacher was shot and killed when the military tried to
clear a highway running from La Paz to Oruro that had been blocked for
five days by peasants.
The same day,
a youth was killed by a bullet during violent protests in
At least 20 union
and civic leaders have been arrested and confined in an
Amazonian town under a state of emergency, which grants President
Hugo Banzer extraordinary powers in the deployment of police and
soldiers, the police reported.
By Sunday afternoon,
the military had cleared most of the routes, which
were shut off for five days, the police said, but roadblocks remained in
place near Achacachi.