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Indybay Feature

Ecuadorians Tell Dirty Secret of Bechtel's Water Privatization

Monday, April 21, 2008
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Event Type:
Panel Discussion
Sara Grusky
Location Details:
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA

Bechtel Profits From Dirty Water in Ecuador
Ecuadorian delegation comes to tell dirty secrets

Cesar Cardenas and Augusto Parada are coming from Ecuador to the United States April 11-24, 2008 with a mission. They want to expose a well-kept secret. Shortly after Bechtel was thrown out of Bolivia for hiking water rates and making farmers pay for rainwater, the World Bank helped facilitate a similar water contract for Bechtel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. That was in 2001. For seven years the residents of Guayaquil suffered periodic water cut-offs – that is, if they were lucky enough to live in neighborhoods and homes that had water connections at all. Sometimes families were cut-off because they couldn't afford to pay their bills. Other times, the water just didn't arrive because the water system is so old and unreliable. To make matters worse, when water did come from the tap it was often unfit for human consumption. Due to water contamination, a Hepatitis A outbreak struck the city in 2005.

Today, inspired by a citizen's assembly that is re-writing Ecuador's Constitution, the residents of Guayaquil are determined to take back control of their water system. Bechtel, realizing the privatization scheme was a failure, is now trying to sell-out to another private corporation, flee the country with the profits and leave its debts and contractual obligations behind. Cardenas and Parada say, “no way!” They are determined to hold the company accountable. They will be touring Washington, DC, Boston and San Francisco with this message. Their organization, the Citizen's Observatory for Public Services (Observatorio Cuidadano de Servicios Publicos) has filed a complaint with the World Bank and the oversight agency, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). The Citizen's Observatory has carefully collected the bills of thousands of residents that owe debts to the water company. They have brought a legal demand to city officials that argues that the water debts of these consumers should be canceled or forgiven. And, they have argued that more than 300,000 of the poorest water consumers in Guayaquil are in need of a revised, more just and egalitarian water rate structure.

Added to the calendar on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 7:34PM
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