Letelier-Moffitt International Awardee Oscar Olivera

Oscar Olivera, the leader of a successful battle against water privatization in Bolivia, is an inspiration for the growing international movement against corporate led globalization.

In 1999, the Bolivian government carried out a plan to transfer the city of Cochabamba's water system to a private consortium, including a subsidiary of U.S. based Bechtel. The consortium quickly hiked rates for local water users by as much as 200 percent, sparking massive protests by a coalition of workers, environmentalists, artisans, peasants, and others called the Coordinator in Defense of Water and Life.

In April, after courageously withstanding a week of clashes with police and the imposition of martial law, the coalition, with Olivera at its head, succeeded in obtaining the withdrawal of Bechtel, the reform of laws pertaining to water services, and the release of persons detained during the conflict. When national protests broke out in September, Olivera again became a leading voice in support of a peaceful solution to the country's problems.

A former shoe factory worker, Olivera is the Executive Secretary of the Federation of Factory Workers of Cochabamba, an umbrella organization of over 50 unions, and the founder (in 1999) of the May 1st Union School.

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