In early April the often-forgot country of Bolivia, tucked away in he Andes, grabbed the world’s attention when the city of Cochabamba erupted in a public uprising over water prices. In 1999, following World Bank advice, Bolivia granted a 40 year privatization lease to a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation, giving it control over the water on which more than half a million people survive. Immediately the company doubled and tripled water rates for some of South America’s poorest families.
The people fought back and in a landmark battle defeated Bechtel, drove them out of the country, and took back control of the water. Their successful struggle has been an inspiration worldwide for those fighting for clean, low-priced water for all.