The New York Times
April 11, 2000

Bolivian Water Plan Dropped After Protests Turn Into Melees

          By REUTERS

          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

          Roadblocks had 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.

          Cochabamba is 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.

          Other members of the consortium include a Spanish engineering and
          construction firm, Abengoa, and two Bolivian companies, ICE Ingenieros
          and a cement maker, Soboce.

          "The company 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.

          On Saturday, 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.