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Bechtel vs Bolivia: The Bechtel Corporation

At the time of Bechtel’s case against Bolivia, Riley Bechtel was the 51st most wealthy man in the U.S.*

He was heading one of the most powerful corporations in the world.
He also provided, to the press and public, deliberately false and misleading information about the suffering his company created for the people of Bolivia.

(* Source: Forbes Magazine) 

For the poorest people in Cochabamba [water] rates went up little, barely 10 percent.
– Gail Apps, spokeswoman for Riley Bechtel,
January 3, 2002 e-mail to the public and the media

In February 2000, just months after it took over control of the water system of Bolivia’s third largest city, Cochabamba, a Bechtel subsidiary hit water users with enormous price increases. These increases forced some of the poorest families in South America to literally choose between food or water. A popular uprising against the company, repressed violently by government troops, left one 17 year old boy dead and more than a hundred people wounded. In April 2000 Bechtel was finally forced to leave.

In November 2001 Bechtel decided to add to the suffering it had already caused by filing a legal demand for $25 million against the Bolivian people – compensation for its lost opportunity to make future profits. In response, The Democracy Center and more than 100 people from all over the world wrote directly to Bechtel CEO, Riley Bechtel, calling on him to drop his action against Bolivia. Mr. Bechtel responded to those messages with a statement from his public relations staff with documentably false and misleading statements about the price hikes his company imposed on the people of Cochabamba.

Bechtel’s falsification of the facts weren’t allowed to stand. Here, for public review, are the actual documents and detailed numbers that demonstrate that Bechtel was lying to the public and media. In the end public pressure helped force Bechtel and its subsidiary to drop their case – read the details here.