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Tue May 26, 2015, 05:21 AM

Bolivia: 15 Years After the Cochabamba Water Revolt, Echoes in New Cases of Corporate Abuse

Bolivia: 15 Years After the Cochabamba Water Revolt, Echoes in New Cases of Corporate Abuse

Written by Philippa de Boissière
Monday, 27 April 2015 21:13

Fifteen years ago this month the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia were victorious in their now-famous showdown with one of the most powerful multinational corporations in the world, in what has come to be known as the Cochabamba Water Revolt. The attempt by the US Engineering giant Bechtel to privatize the city’s water supply backfired spectacularly when the people of Cochabamba faced down government forces to kick the multinational out of the country and to reclaim their rights to one of the most basic human necessities on the planet.

For people the world over, this stunning popular victory over corporate hubris in the Andes not only continues to inspire hope that another world is indeed possible; it also shines an urgent light on three fundamentals in the ongoing wider battle against the abuses of corporate power in South America: how the road is paved to allow foreign corporations to seize control of the continent's forests, waters and territories; the damages they inflict when they get there; and how communities are fighting back against a deepening transnational assault on their resources and on their sovereignty.

For Bechtel, the road into Bolivia and its water systems was paved by Washington Consensus-inspired loan conditionalities. In the late 1990s the World Bank told Bolivia to privatize Cochabamba’s Water as a condition of further lending for water expansion. In 1999, the Bolivian government agreed and signed a lavish forty-year lease with a mysterious Bechtel subsidiary that wasted no time in hiking up the cost of water. Rates rose by 50% and sometimes by as much as double. The result for ordinary Cochabambinos was devastating, with many families being forced to choose between such basics as water or food. People from across the department responded with unified indignation, three times shutting down the entire city with blockades, marches, and general strikes. Despite heavy state repression that left one teenage boy dead and hundreds more injured, the people succeeded in kicking Bechtel out of the country, reclaiming their water supply and achieving a powerful victory that still resonates globally today.

Fast forward to South America 2015. These same fundamental themes of foreign corporate dominance and resistance are echoed across three current cases involving powerful European multinationals, profiled in a recent report, Corporate Conquistadors, from the Democracy Center, Corporate Europe Observatory and Transnational Institute. In Peru, Spanish Repsol is threatening not only the sovereignty but the very existence of local indigenous communities, as it pushes ever deeper into fragile Amazonian ecosystems in the insatiable quest to expand its reserves of oil and gas. To the south of Peru, in the region of Espinar, Swiss Commodities and Mining conglomerate Glencore Xstrata is bulldozing over human rights as local community members share testimonies of already scarce water supplies being destroyed by its twin mega mining projects, Tintaya and Antapaccay. Finally, Italo-Spanish energy giant Enel-Endesa is set to flood some 8,500 hectares of vitally important agricultural lands in Huila, Colombia where it is constructing a 400MW dam to generate cheap energy - either for export or to set in motion a new wave of mega mining and unconventional gas operations.


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Reply Bolivia: 15 Years After the Cochabamba Water Revolt, Echoes in New Cases of Corporate Abuse (Original post)
Judi Lynn May 2015 OP
Peace Patriot May 2015 #1
Peace Patriot May 2015 #2
Judi Lynn May 2015 #3

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue May 26, 2015, 02:01 PM

1. Colombia and Peru have both made pacts with the devil (so to speak):

Both governments have signed U.S. "free trade for the rich" agreements: Colombia, recently, under a center-right president, Manual Santos, after a decade of prep--murder of many labor leaders and other leftists, brutal displacement of 5 million peasant farmers, compliments of the corrupt, murderous, failed U.S. "war on drugs"--by Bush pal, the murderous fascist Alvaro Uribe; in Peru, signed by corrupt rightwinger Alan Garcia, since replaced by leftist Ollanta Humala who doesn't seem like much of a leftist any more. (Seems to have made the Corporate Compromise like so many of our Democratic Party leaders, hangin' out with the rich and powerful.) Both Colombia and Peru are selling their peoples' natural resources out from under them with little or no benefit to the majority of the people, and great harm to many people and to the environment.

Peruvian government web site touting its ties to the IMF and World Bank (gawd!):

Lima, June 10, 2014.- In October 2015 Peru will host the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world’s most important multilateral agencies, of which Peru is a full member.

The 2015 WBG/IMF Annual Meetings will provide Peru with a unique opportunity to strengthen its increasingly relevant position in the global stage. For seven days the country will be at the center of world attention and will have the chance to showcase its achievements and the policies implemented to become a referent at the regional and global level.

More at the link.

That says it all about Peru's 0.01% and Ollanta Humala--WELCOMING the World Bank and IMF into Peru, for godssakes! So anxious to be a "player," which inevitably means selling out your people and your country.

More from the OP article:

Fifteen years after Bolivia's water revolt, the leveraging power of loan conditionalities has given way to a popular myth among conservative governments in the region that securing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the cornerstone of economic development, regardless of the cost. Just as powers from the Global North are in a frantic scramble to control natural resources, national governments across Latin America are competing to woo investors. Combined with this corporate resource grab is a deeper ideological and political assault that allows multinationals to consolidate ever greater powers over governments already weakened by decades of neoliberal policy prescriptions. In Peru, these dynamics are clear to see: both (Spain's) Repsol and (Swiss) Glencore Xstrata have been directly implicated in an intense industry-led push for widespread deregulation of crucial environmental protections in favour of unfettered extractivism - demands that were dutifully taken up by policymakers in 2014's highly controversial “paquetazo” of reforms. Meanwhile in Colombia, (Italo-Spanish energy giant) Enel-Endesa was able to use the government's much vaunted promise to uphold “investor confidence” as a weapon against it, pressuring on three separate occasions for weaker commitments to affected communities, in a licence process that already reeks of corporate impunity.

Over and over again, the premise that giving away natural resources is a doorway to a better life has proven devastatingly false. In Peru, indigenous peoples who have inhabited the Amazon for more generations than are countable are seeing their traditional ways of life being decimated in just a few short decades as rapid industrialisation and a series of toxic spills have impacted on their ability to hunt and fish. In the copper and iron rich region of Espinar, community members at the COP20 People's Summit in Lima told us how they are being left destitute after heavy metals being leached into the water from Glencore Xstrata's mining operations are wiping out herds of livestock. This desolate story is repeated in Huila, where people who fought for their land rights during the peasant uprisings of the 1970s are now being violently evicted to clear space for Enel-Endesa's megadam project. Like Bechtel fifteen years earlier, both Glencore Xstrata and Enel-Endesa have benefited from the repressive use of state forces against civilians in asserting their government-assisted “rights” over precious raw materials.

(my emphasis)

This is an horrendous model for economic development--letting transglobal corporations run rampant through your country--even with a relatively "liberal" president and government, as in Peru (so very like Clinton I). "Liberal" these days means "Neo-liberal" which means liberty for the rich few to steal everything in sight, with maybe a few sops to the people, such as non-racist social policy that eliminates obvious bias--gains that evaporate as the underclass sinks further into poverty (as here in the U.S. with poverty-stricken black ghettoes). (--Bill Clinton's social liberalism becomes a cruel joke, as community after community is devastated by Transglobal Corporate Rule.)

This important article (by Philippa Debossier, author of "Corporate Conquistadors" also discusses the crucial issue of climate change:

There is one facet in all this that is markedly different than in Cochabamba fifteen years ago: the accelerating climate crisis and the ways in which these new cases exacerbate its impacts. Repsol's relentless bingeing on fossil fuels is taking it to increasingly fragile frontiers in oil and gas exploration, setting in motion a slow industrial genocide for indigenous peoples living in the Peruvian Amazon. Glencore Xstrata is pushing communities in Espinar into greater climate vulnerability with its industrial appetite for water resources already stressed by climate-induced glacial melt. Enel-Endesa's rainforest-destroying, methane-belching hydroelectric dam, El Quimbo, is set to kickstart Colombia's own climate-wrecking fracking industry. Although wrapped in carefully crafted greenwash and invoking the myth of Corporate Social Responsibility, each of these multinationals are emblematic of how corporate activities are not only eroding social justice on the ground in South America but are also simultaneously driving climate change, with devastating consequences the world over.

(my emphasis)

I have a lot of experience of corporate "greenwash" and it is something that thinking people and well-meaning people need to look out for. For instance, there is NO SUCH THING as "sustainable" logging in Planet Earth's current condition. The "Forest Stewardship Council" label is an utter crock. We need to put on our skeptic caps whenever we hear "green" from the maw of the Corporate P.R. monster. "Corporate social responsibility" is another baldfaced lie, when it comes to giant corporations and transglobals--entities that need to be demolished, frankly (their corporate charters pulled, their assets seized for the common good).

I am not opposed to "the marketplace." In fact, I think it's a good thing and a basic human need. But NOT these non-competitive, all powerful, everlasting corporate monopolists and rapers of the Earth. that the U.S. has unleashed upon the world. The article focuses on Spain's and Switzerland's corporate monsters, but the model is HERE--was unleashed here, and is our own rotten "gift" to the world. U.S. corporate monsters are committing equally great crimes in Latin America--indeed, even much greater crimes, combined with billions and billions of U.S. tax dollars bleeding into repressive militaries and police forces, and rightwing coffers, in Latin America, and billions more in secret budgets to destroy Latin American democracy.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Reply #1)

Tue May 26, 2015, 04:56 PM

2. Here's an interesting hit piece by Rotters on Ollanta Humala

I'm quoting it in full cuz you really need to see it as a work of art, all of a piece. Bear in mind that Rotters is no friend to the Left; it is a tool of European/U.S. Corporate Rulers, so that, when its multiple corporate-shill authors state that, "Humala, a former military officer who turned to the right after being elected in 2011 on a leftist platform, has denied any involvement in wrongdoing," you gotta wonder what's really going on here. The article is dated Feb. '15:

Peru's president reshuffles cabinet as popularity wanes

Peru's President Ollanta Humala reshuffled his cabinet late on Tuesday in a bid to placate an increasingly powerful opposition bloc as palace scandals mount and his popularity dips.

Humala swore in Rosa Maria Ortiz, the head of a government committee that grants environmental permits, as his new energy and mines minister. Ortiz is also the former head of state energy agency Perupetro.

He also replaced four other ministers but left in power his sixth prime minister, Ana Jara, whom he appointed in July.

Opposition lawmakers affiliated with former Presidents Alberto Fujimori and Alan Garcia have called for Jara to step down, arguing her leadership is ineffectual and divisive.

While they lack the votes to force her from power, defections from Humala's congressional bloc have eroded his ability to push through legislation and defend already-passed reforms.

Humala is struggling to counter a sharp economic slowdown while containing a slew of scandals, from a former campaign manager detained on corruption allegations in Bolivia to a recently reopened investigation into the first lady's finances.

Humala, a former military officer who turned to the right after being elected in 2011 on a leftist platform, has denied any involvement in wrongdoing.

He has dismissed criticism of his government as part of the political wrangling ahead of presidential elections next year, when he is constitutionally barred from seeking a second consecutive term.

Humala's approval rating slipped five percentage points to 25 percent in January on the growing perception of government corruption, according to an Ipsos poll.

Previous Peruvian presidents have governed with much lower popularity levels.

Humala replaced his controversial but relatively popular interior minister, Daniel Urresti, after a protester was shot dead last week in demonstrations against natural gas exploration.

Outgoing energy and mines minister Eleodoro Mayorga came under fire for telling a group of protesters, in Peru's Amazonian region of Junin, that he would ask energy company Pluspetrol to leave the area and review its contract.

Mayorga also faced allegations, which he denied, that as minister he favoured companies he once represented as a lobbyist.

Humala's outgoing minister for women faced criticism after her housekeeper revealed she had not provided her with legally mandated benefits.

Peru's flagging economy has continued to miss forecasts for a recovery over the past year. Growth rose 2.35 percent in 2014 on a drop in mining, less than half the rate posted in 2013.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)

(my emphases)

There are many curious items in this article. Almost every sentence cries out to be vetted--researched, thought about, reviewed with a skeptical eye--given Rotters track record for mauling Latin American Leftists, and given the curiosities in the article. (Figure this one out: "Previous Peruvian presidents have governed with much lower popularity levels." Um, they'd like to see a coup d'etat, is that it?)

What I gather is this: Rotters is trying to bolster the murderous fascist faction in Peru (Fujimori, Garcia) because Humala has tried to be centrist (as opposed to fascist) on the enforcement of environmental regulation and impacts on the Indigenous. Rotters is using ammunition from both left and right, willy-nilly, to shoot down Humala and his government, crediting every accusation they can dig up, apparently to hobble his "centrist" policies and even the most minimal environmental regulation. Slowing down mining is the great evil to Rotters and they bring it up at the end of the article, attributing a slowdown in growth to this alone. Any sops to Indigenous protestors are to be condemned.

I'd say the Corporate Media is out of control in Peru--much as they went out of control here, on Clinton and the Monica Lewinski dalliance. I think the purpose is the same, to hogtie a "centrist" leader against any reformist or pro-people tendencies he may have. One difference is that Clinton remained hugely popular throughout the Corporate Media's obscene binge about Monica, mainly because Clinton's "Neo-liberal" policies didn't hit home until he was out of office (when they came down like a ton of bricks, under Bush jr., who, of course worsened things immensely). Clinton had teflon during his scandal. Humala, on the other hand, is obviously vulnerable (if Ipsos can be believed). His "centrist" path seems to mean that he can't please anybody at all (or is simply not as great a bullshitter as Clinton was/is).

At least one of the curiosities in the article is wrong. Humala did NOT "turn to the right after being elected in 2011 on a leftist platform." He turned to the right--or rather to the "center"--during the campaign, under the influence and intervention of Lula da Silva, former (leftist) president of Brazil. It was probably good advice as to helping to call off the dogs of the CIA. In any case, Humala's veer from left to "center" was evident during the campaign. It was widely reported. Why would Rotters promote this false idea, that the veer was post-election? Well, it has been standard CIA practice to stir up both right and left when they want regime change. Turmoil is opportunity. So this is their shit-stir to the left, or one of them. They want to plant or reinforce a notion that Humala "betrayed" the left (when, in fact, he was quite open with voters about his coming policies during the election).

I remember descrying his turn to "center" during the election, and wondering what Lulu was up to. At the time, the big corporate/fascist scare was that Humala would ally with Venezuela's Chavez (which Lulu did himself!) But I think now that, at that late date in the leftist democracy revolution in South America (2011), the U.S./CIA were genuinely panicked about another "domino" falling to the Left, and would have done anything to prevent it. Thus, Lulu may well have prevented a Peruvian disaster--the rise of the fascists again (dictator Alberto Fujimori's daughter was running against Humala)--and even an assassination. Basically, Humala had to play ball with the transglobal corporate mining and other interests, or go the way of Allende and others.

It looks like he didn't compromise enough, and these vile, vicious, anti-democratic forces are out to demolish him, and any prospects for a similar administration in Peru. A Fujimori in the presidency would truly be a catastrophe for Peru, and a huge boon to mining interests. Humala got into trouble over one protestor death. Fujimori would kill thousands without a thought. Like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, here, the Fujimori name should be anathema in Peru, but it's one task of corporate media propagandists to keep bloody fascists respectable.

Anyway, you've really got to vet Corporate News articles for MOTIVE. They are NOT truth-tellers. They are manipulators and liars for the 0.01%. Indeed, it could ALL be false--giving an entirely false picture of the situation in Peru.


(Note on Ipsos: Ipsos is a huge, transglobal "market" research corporation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipsos. They are "players" just like Exxon Mobil or Repsol, or the World Bank and the IMF. I don't know if they are guilty of this, but polls are easily skewed, for instance, by only polling people with cell phones (which would exclude most the poor in Peru), or only polling in middle class/wealthy neighborhoods (and ignoring the maids and gardeners). Skewing the polls is especially made possible in a corporate media-circus environment of false scandals and corporate-media way overblown scandals. The one reinforces the other, and, in highly riggable election systems, such as ours, rigged elections then reinforce the first two (media frenzy-false scandals, rigged polls, rigged elections). Clinton may not have suffered false polls because he did just what the Corporate Rulers told him to, during that period--he killed the New Deal-era regulation of Wall Street and the financial industry, among other things.)

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Response to Peace Patriot (Reply #2)

Tue May 26, 2015, 05:15 PM

3. Clinton also had enough time in his second term to pull off "Plan Colombia," bless his heart.

That made him some very fast friends in Colombian government. President Alvaro Uribe, in his search for US allies on the FTA he wanted from the US, also attempted to enlist President Jimmy Carter, claiming he supported it, and Carter had to call his own press briefing to inform them, as if that would do any good, that he most clearly had NOT backed the FTA.

At least Carter stubbornly resisted quite a bit of that treacherous dishonesty.

It helps a great deal to read your comments, as you don't blow off the vital information. We need perspective. We don't get it from our corporate media. It could take centuries, at this rate, before people can trust them to respect actual journalistic standards.

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