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Bechtel Drops Claim in Bolivia Water Case

After years of public pressure, San Francisco-based multinational company Bechtel dropped its controversial legal demand against Bolivia over public water. Bechtel, and its chief co-investor, Abengoa of Spain, were awarded a contract in 1999 when Bolivia's water system was privatized.  Bechtel's Bolivian company raised rates by more than 50 percent, sparking fierce protests in Bolivia, and eventually forcing Bechtel to leave the country due to the unrest.

After Bechtel left Bolivia in 2001, the corporation filed a claim against the country for $50 million in damages and loss of profits with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank trade court. ICSID conducts its proceedings in secret, barring the press and the public. International protests against Bechtel, Abengoa, and the World Bank followed for four years, and unprecedented citizen action in the form of petitions and protests demanded that the legal proceedings be opened to the public.

In January 2006, Bechtel and Abengoa agreed with the government of Bolivia to abandon their case for a token payment equal to thirty cents.