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Monday, November 18, 2002

On 29 August 2002, 300 non-governmental groups sent an angry letter to the World Bank Group demanding public access to its "secret trade court" which is to rule on a dispute between an American transnational company and Bolivia.

The letter spells out concerns about the World Bank's role in a water privatisation deal in which Bechtel took over the public water company in Bolivia's third largest city, Cochabamba.

The organisations which endorsed the letter argue that "the World Bank/ICSID should not be handling this case [because] it was the World Bank itself which directly forced the government of Bolivia to privatize the water system of Cochabamba, making privatization a condition for both debt relief and funds for water system expansion".

Bechtel is now demanding $30m in compensation after popular protests forced them to withdraw from the contract. Campaigners say that the World Bank faces clear conflicts of interest in this case and should open up the activities of its arbitration arm to public scrutiny.

The World Bank's The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes was set to have its first arbitration hearing on the case in mid-September 2002...

Read what Riley Bechtel the 51st* most wealthy man in the U.S. (* source Forbes Magazine) has to say about the actions of his company in Bolivia.

For further information visit The Bretton Woods Project or read the dispatches written from the field by the Democracy Centre's Jim Schultz during Bolivia's water protests.