Synopses & Reviews
A new phase in the international movement to turn back the rising tide of corporate globalization was marked by US protests in Seattle and the triumphs of grassroots activists in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Volumes have been written about the struggle to shut down the World Trade Organization meetings, but little has been documented about the arguably more successful struggle to regain control of Cochabamba's water supply and kick out the transnational corporation that privatized it.
Cochabamba! Water Rebellion in Bolivia tells this story-the story of the first great victory against corporate globalization in Latin America. Oscar Olivera, a forty-five-year-old machinist, was at the center of the movement that brought tens of thousands of ordinary people to the streets in the Andean city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Olivera, in collaboration with Tom Lewis, presents the ideas and emotions of a first hand participant in the victorious rebellion and street battles that have inspired activists in social movements around the world.
Cochabamba!explains how the city's water supply was sold to Aguas del Tunari, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based transnational corporation Bechtel. Water prices subsequently rose astronomically and poverty-strapped Bolivians refused to pay. Olivera explains the process of organizing an opposition movement coalition-the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Water and Life-and relates the dramatic struggles that eventually defeated the neoliberal privatizers.
Olivera reflects on the themes that emerged as a result of the war over water (rapidly becoming the world's new oil); the fear and isolation which the Cochabambinos overcame through a spirit of solidarity and mutual aid; and the Bolivian government's criminalization of social movements as part of U.S. President Bush's global "war on terrorism." Cochabamba! also discusses the impact of the "water wars" on subsequent battles with trans-national corporations and financial institutions.
Oscar Oliverais the executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers and spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Water and Life. He was awarded the prestigious Goldman En
Historically a common trust, water is now bought and sold as a private commodity. With billions at the mercy of an unrestrained marketplace, it is easy to understand why this precious resource is at the center of the international movement working to turn back the rising tide of corporate globalization.
The triumphant struggle of grassroots activists in Cochabamba, Bolivia, sounded a significant opening salvo in the water wars. In 2001, water warriors there regained control of their water supply and defied all odds by driving out the transnational corporation that had stolen their water in the first place.
¡Cochabamba! is the story of the first great victory against corporate globalization in Latin America. Oscar Olivera, a 45-year-old machinist who helped shape and lead a movement that brought thousands of ordinary people to the streets, powerfully conveys the perspective of a committed participant in a victorious and inspirational rebellion.
The beloved and highly respected Olivera relates the selling of the city’s water supply to Aguas del Tunari—a subsidiary of US-based Bechtel—the subsequent astronomical rise in water prices, and the refusal of poverty-strapped Bolivians to pay them. Olivera brings us to the front lines of a movement, chronicling how the people organized an opposition and the dramatic struggles that eventually defeated the privatizers.
With hard-won political savvy, Olivera reflects on major themes that emerged from the war over water: the fear and isolation that Cochabambinos faced with a spirit of solidarity and mutual aid; the challenges of democratically administering the city’s water supply; and the impact of the water wars on subsequent resistance.
Oscar Olivera is president of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers and 2001 winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Tom Lewis is Latin America editor for the International Socialist Review and professor of Spanish at the University of Iowa.
Cochabamba is the first book about the successful fight against water privatization and corporate-globalization in Bolivia.
About the Author
Oscar Olivera is the executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers and spokesperson for the Coalition in Defense of Water and Life, that advocates local public control of water. Olivera successfully negotiated with the Bolivian government to cancel Cochabamba's water privatization contract with Bechtel, release people arrested during the protests, and have troops withdrawn from the city. Olivera, a native of Cochabamba and former shoe-factory worker, was honored as a 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize winner from Central/South America. In 2000, he won the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award, an award given by the Institute for Policy Studies to honor two IPS workers who were murdered by agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1976.