This paper discusses the process of “accumulation by dispossession” of water resources by the institutions of the transnational state and the role of nationalism in the resulting movement for reappropriation. A comparative analysis of Latin American countries is conducted using data obtained from UN databases and historical accounts. The object of this analysis is to delineate a causal pathway surrounding the dynamics of water sovereignty in the age of global capitalism. I find that privatization is not likely to occur if there is a lack of crisis or there is a socialist executive; however, if privatization does occur, and the appropriating action is taken by a multinational corporation, activated nationalist sentiment may lead to reappropriation of water resources.

The end of the twentieth century marked a moment of turmoil in the world-system. The globalization of capital and the rapid advancement and spread of communication and information technologies has resulted in the creation of a transnational capitalist class (TCC) composed of owners and executives of transnational corporations, technocratic professionals, finance capitalists, and globalist political and media elites, who implement their agenda globally through the mechanisms of a transnational state (TNS) of international institutions (Harris 2006; Robinson 2004; Sklair 2000a). Simultaneously, the decline of the United States’ hegemonic power, along with falling global rates of profit, resulted in new political movements by the TCC (Harris 2006; Harvey 2010; Sklair 2000a; Smith and Wiest 2012; Wallerstein 1991). Overaccumulation of capital resulted in the broad leveraging of emerging markets to generate new sources of profit and new sites of extraction (Harvey 2003, 2004; Swyngedouw 2005). This moment was particularly tumultuous in Latin America, where broad social upheaval was marked by debt crises, heavy presence of the World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs), and a reemergence of regional politics. In regard to water resources, some countries in Latin America have been able to avoid forced neoliberal policy; others have been able to reverse the appropriation of resources by multinational corporations (MNCs). The complex exchange between global power structures and local water politics that occurred in Latin America during this period create an illustrative and informative case of social dynamics under the TNS. In this paper I trace the political-economic contexts of urban water policy in Latin America under global capitalism, analyzing the interaction of local processes with the institutions of the TNS. I posit that crisis opens the door for IFIs to institute neoliberal reforms on behalf of MNCs and the TCC; I also theorize that, in the age of global capitalism, the TNS represents the primary adversarial formation against which nationalist movements for resource sovereignty mobilize.

In this paper I investigate the political-economic contexts of urban water delivery privatizations, reversals of privatization, and the influence of the TNS, crises, and nationalism on resource sovereignty in the age of global capitalism. “Privatization” refers to the selling off of public assets to private owners, specifically in regard to ownership of resources, infrastructure, or operations (Harvey 2003; Hall and Lobina 2008). “Reversal of privatization”—also referred to as “renationalization” or “remunicipalization”—refers to reversion to public-sector ownership and operation following privatization (Hall and Lobina 2007). And in this paper, “crisis” refers specifically to national systemic banking crises, as described by Laeven and Valencia (2012).

This paper begins with a discussion of neoliberalism, privatization’s impacts on periphery nations, and nationalist movements under the TNS. This is followed by a comparative analysis of all Latin American nations to delineate a causal pathway in relation to the previously discussed concepts, allowing me to generate a model of the dynamics of water sovereignty in the age of global capitalism. This analysis is done in two steps. The first, a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA), investigates the causal conditions that lead a country’s urban water delivery systems to be privatized (or not). The second, a mixed-methods comparative analysis, investigates the factors which may lead to reversal of these privatizations. These results allow me to delineate a causal pathway tracing critical junctures that influence the outcome of the processes of privatization and reversal.

NEOLIBERALISM AND THE SHIFTING GLOBAL DYNAMICS OF WATER RESOURCES

Neoliberalism is a set of ideologies and policies which center around the liberalization of markets and the use of the state as a mechanism to privatize and commodify more aspects of life, transforming previously public assets into sources of profit and speculation. It signals a new stage in advanced capitalism, one in which declining rates of profit are countered by leveraging privileged access to resources through an increasingly complex global political economy (Harvey 2003; Sassen 2014). In contrast with classical liberalism, neoliberalism promotes a “polyarchic” form of governance, repositioning the corporation as the primary unit of economic activity and envisioning marketization through top-down mechanisms (Robinson 2004; Van Horn and Mirowski 2009). Institutions of the TNS, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the “Washington Consensus”—the consensus among core nations and institutions that the American and British models of neoliberalism are the answers to international development—are the primary vectors of the spread and transmission of neoliberal policy around the world (Barlow and Clarke 2005; Bauer 2004; Goldman 2005; Harvey 2005; Robinson 2004). These institutions advance neoliberal policy most commonly through debt restructuring packages for poor nations, which mandate strict austerity policies that involve broad appropriation of public assets by corporations. In contrast to historical attempts at debt relief, such as those in Europe after World War II, modern debt relief packages are aimed more at “transformative discipline” than at “reincorporation into the capitalist world economy” (Sassen 2014:90). The ideological bankruptcy of these debt restructuring packages is demonstrated by the World Bank, for example, which espouses a “pro-poor” developmentalist rhetoric while simultaneously profiting from the prescribed solutions (Goldman 2005).

Neoliberal ideology promotes an idealistic market-essentialist dogma, the belief that markets are the most efficient mechanisms for the distribution of resources (Friedman 1962; Hall 2008). Utilities markets, however, are “far removed from the competitive ‘environment’ that neoliberal pundits hail as the savior of ailing economies in the Third World” (Swyngedouw 2005:95); they are marred by inefficiencies, tend toward monopoly, and are subject to a wide range of market-distorting scarcity, governance, and rent mechanisms (Beecher, Dreese, and Stanford 1995; Feldman 2012; Harvey 2010; Littlechild 1988; Pint 1991; Rouse 2009). Privatization removes democratic transparency and accountability from previously public water management and directs profits toward private corporations while keeping risk publicly insured (Barlow and Clarke 2005; Hall 1999; Hall and Lobina 2008; Harvey 2004; Littlechild 1988; Mulas 2009; Pint 1991; Rouse 2009; Swyngedouw 2005). The rapid consolidation of multinational firms has reduced competition further, resulting in two water delivery companies (Suez and Veolia) controlling more than two-thirds of the global private water market (Hall 1999; Swyngedouw 2005); and water multinationals regularly conspire to parcel out the global water market to boost total rents by limiting competition. The global quasi-monopoly held by Suez and Veolia gives them extraordinary dominance and price control in a market already prone to monopoly.

The case of Chile demonstrates clearly the disconnect between privatization, quality, and cost. Chile under Augusto Pinochet, partnering with the IMF and economists from the Chicago school, was Latin America’s earliest adopter of neoliberal policy (Fischer 2009). Chile is in fact the most commonly cited example of successful neoliberal reform (Bauer 2004); this success was often attributed to efficiency, a “high level of professionalism, [and a] lack of corruption” in the water delivery corporation (Baer 2014:159). But evidence shows that the quality of Chile’s water system cannot be attributed to neoliberal economic policy. Although Chile’s water code was revised under Pinochet, the state maintained control of water companies for another two decades. In the years prior to full privatization, the Chilean government invested heavily in restructuring the country’s water system, developing a “well-functioning system that had been carefully created, monitored, and funded” (159). When the state finally started selling its water company shares in 1999, citizens “did not experience a sudden shift in quality or prices following privatization,” as Chile’s urban water service was already one of the most efficient in the region (157–59). The efficiency was the direct result of large public financing, and therefore the credo that marketization would result in more efficient distribution of resources was unfounded.

Crisis is a common precedent of the push for neoliberal reform. Harvey (2004:181–82) refers to the tactics institutions and firms engage in to push for total privatization of water resources as “accumulation by dispossession,” which is defined by “periodic bouts of predatory devaluation of assets.” This imperialist tactic allows the appropriation of periphery resources at low costs by the TCC. Economic slowdowns and crises generate an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty, which can then be capitalized on to push through austerity measures that favor the wealthy and reify transnational class structures (Harvey 2010:11; Sklair 2000b). Crisis therefore creates a prime opportunity for the TNS to promote its agenda and appropriate resources. The next section will discuss how nationalist sentiment is mobilized in response to the political maneuvers of the TNS to reappropriate national resources.

NATIONALISM IN THE ERA OF THE TRANSNATIONAL STATE

The international currents of neoliberal restructuring and the growth of the TNS provide a context that is conducive to the mobilization of nationalist movements against these transnational elites. Benedict Anderson ([1983] 2016:6) defines the nation as “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” This sovereignty extends to multiple facets of the imaginary: laws, government, land, natural resources. Nationalist movements occur when groups organize to “establish new sovereignty rights” (Olzak 2004:668) and to make demands toward “securing control of the distributive system in a society” (Hah and Martin 1975:362). Resource nationalism “encompasses efforts by resource-rich nations to shift political and economic control of their energy and mining sectors from foreign and private interests to domestic and state-controlled companies” (Bremmer and Johnston 2009:149). Resource nationalism has been shown to occur in cycles; it occurs during periods of hegemonic decline and moments of crisis, during which material processes are expanded (Bremmer 2006; Bremmer and Johnston 2009; Bunker and Ciccantell 2005; Kaup and Gellert 2017; Krasner 1978; Smith and Wiest 2012; Wallerstein 1984). Kaup and Gellert (2017:296) describe the most recent cycle of resource nationalism as being “shaped by the intensive and corporate-national regime of accumulation deployed by the United States and emerging responses to neoliberalization,” and a direct result of the decline in the U.S.’s hegemonic power and the widespread financialization of markets during this period.

Studies have shown that communal identity, as a member of the nation, is an especially potent source of mobilization—more so than other mobilizing factors, such as class consciousness (Calhoun 1982; Gould 1995; Walton 1993). Nationalist sentiment can be the result of wider intragroup social communication as a result of advances in communication and transportation technologies, or from the activation of national identity due to disruption of traditional social structures and increased integration into the world-economy. In post-colonial states, nationalist mobilization occurs largely as a response to imperialism and the continued effects of colonialism by core nations (Anderson [1983] 2016; Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein 1989; Berberoglu 1999; Calhoun 1993; Hah and Martin 1975; Hall 1998; Hechter 2000; Olzak 2004; Smith 2004; Wallerstein 1987). National identity is most commonly activated when some external force encroaches on a nation’s imagined sovereignty, creating the opportunity for the integration of previously disparate groups (Cohen 1985; Conversi 1995; Hechter 2000). Leaders draw on national identity as a source of mobilization through rhetorical references to “the people” and to ideas of national sovereignty (Calhoun 1997; Conversi 1995; Tarrow 1994). In the age of global capitalism, this commonly pits periphery nations against the members of the TNS.

Groups that are more disadvantaged in the social hierarchy have fewer resources with which to organize, resulting in the reliance of anti-systemic movements on local elites with access to necessary resources, such as organizational infrastructure, human resources, and social, economic, and physical capital (Almeida 2014; Calhoun 1993; Edwards and McCarthy 2004; Lachmann 1990; McCarthy and Zald 1977; Morris and Staggenborg 2004; Tarrow 1994). Nationalism frequently causes members to act in opposition to international class interests and in support of national ones, often reifying national hierarchies and leading to support of monopolistic control over resources (Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein 1989; Berberoglu 1999; Bremmer and Johnston 2009; Fominaya 2010; Hah and Martin 1975; Kaup and Gellert 2017). Periphery elites frequently partner with the TCC to cut deals to shore up personal wealth or power; but local elites occasionally support the nation over the TCC when perceived self-interests favor national solidarity over transnational class solidarity.

Water privatization in Uruguay provides a clear example of how nationalist consolidation can result in reaction to the TNS and integration into the world-economy. In the 1990s the IMF provided debt-relief loans under the conditional privatization of water delivery systems, resulting in two relatively small concessions (Hall and Lobina 2002, 2007, 2008). Excessive costs, poor service and quality, and hazards to public health, along with dissatisfaction with the IMF’s loan behavior, worries about corruption, and concern for environmental and sustainability issues, prompted Uruguayans to begin a campaign for a referendum on water policy. Uruguay was hit by a large-scale financial crisis, galvanizing social movements and leading to the election of a center-left government for the first time in the nation’s history, which enacted sweeping reforms in social policy and public spending (Hall and Lobina 2007; International Monetary Fund 2015; Weinstein 2007; World Heritage Encyclopedia 2018). Directly following the election, a constitutional amendment declared water a human right and renationalized Uruguay’s previous concessions, forcing the water corporations out of the country and bringing water delivery systems under state control (Baer 2014; Hall and Lobina 2007, 2008).

A similar process occurred in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The World Bank leveraged a Bolivian economic crisis to aggressively push for water-sector reforms and the privatization of urban water services (Baer 2008). The lack of consultation with local water experts, such as in the fields of agriculture, engineering, and the environment, during the privatization process resulted in members of these groups organizing in opposition (Finnegan 2002; Olivera and Lewis 2004). Cochabambans began to experience massive rate hikes once resources were transferred to Aguas del Tunari, despite promises that this would not happen; Aguas del Tunari also seized traditional water accumulation and distribution systems from local individuals (Assies 2003; Perrault 2008). With this deception serving as a catalyst, the opposition rapidly expanded. Prominent government officials and members of labor, trade, indigenous, and civil groups formed the Coordinadora por la Defensa del Agua y la Vida (Coordination for the Defense of Water and Life) (Assies 2003; Baer 2008; Olivera and Lewis 2004; Perrault 2008). Many people joined La Coordinadora’s efforts and participated in broad protests around the country. The spreading protests forced the executives of Aguas del Tunari out of Cochabamba and caused the government to revoke their contract, returning Cochabamba’s water system to the people. Economic disruption and the disturbance of traditional structures and practices primed the public at large to nationalist mobilization (Baer 2008; Fabricant 2012; Hylton and Thomson 2004; John 2009; Perrault 2008; Zimmerer 2015). The rejection of market forces by local elites in Cochabamba was in reaction to the encroachment of outside forces (Assies 2003; Baer 2008; Perrault 2008). Economic and political power were being sapped by members of the TCC, resulting in the weakening of internal hierarchies by external global power structures and, consequently, class-conscious mobilization by the local capitalist class against the TCC.

CASE ANALYSES

The object of this study is to delineate a causal pathway of the dynamics of water sovereignty across Latin America in the age of global capitalism. Here, I analyze the political-economic contexts of urban water system privatizations and reversals of privatization—remunicipalizations and renationalizations—in Latin America. The analyzed legislation and privatizations begin with the adoption of Chile’s Water Code in 1981; the spate of municipal privatizations began in 1993 and continued through 2005, while the reversals of these privatizations took place between 1998 and 2006. A detailed list of legislation and municipal ownership throughout Latin America is given in Section 1 of the Appendix. Through this study, I hope to parse out the influence of crises, nationalism, and the new dynamics of global capitalism on these processes, as well as to analyze the validity of neoliberal rhetoric. I hypothesize that IFIs use crises to leverage neoliberal reforms on behalf of the TCC, and that, in the age of global capitalism, the TNS represents the primary adversarial formation against which nationalist movements mobilize, leading to movements to reappropriate water resources.

METHODS

The first analyses in this study use fsQCA to parse out the conditions that affect ownership of urban water supply operations (Ragin 2000, 2005, 2008, 2017). fsQCA studies provide cross-case comparative analyses of set-theoretic variables or conditions in medium-n studies, allowing the dissection of causal complexity in social processes. In fsQCA studies, each case is given a score from 0 to 1 describing how fully said case is a member of each set-theoretic condition (in contrast to crisp-set QCA, in which all scores are binary, 0 or 1); 0 implies a negative case, or non-membership, and 1 a positive case, or full membership. These scores can then be used to evaluate complex causal conditions of social processes across these cases. In fsQCA, the presence of a causal condition in a causal combination is denoted with an uppercase letter, and absence with a lowercase letter (for example, P = Privatization, and p = No Privatization). In its formulations, fsQCA uses Boolean algebra, in which addition (+) implies a logical OR and multiplication implies a logical AND. The main object of fsQCA is to find causal conditions or sets of conditions that are necessary and/or sufficient to produce a certain outcome. Causal conditions are necessary if they are “shared by cases with the same outcome,” and sufficient if “cases with the same causal conditions … share the same outcome” (Ragin 2008:20). “Necessity” describes a condition or set of conditions which must be present for an outcome to occur, or, in other words, of which the outcome is a subset; “sufficiency” describes a condition or set of conditions that are a subset of the outcome, implying that the causal combination will result in the outcome.

In fsQCA, truth-table analyses are performed to determine which solutions (sets of causal conditions) are sufficient to produce the coded outcome. An fsQCA truth-table analysis gives three sets of solutions for the chosen outcome: complex, parsimonious, and intermediate. The complex solution lists all causal combinations which result in the desired outcome while avoiding combinations that result in counterfactuals; the parsimonious solution lists the simplest causal combinations which can result in the desired outcome by taking into account the counterfactual cases; and the intermediate solution lists the causal combinations which result in the desired outcome while taking into account the researcher’s assumptions about the presence or absence of certain causal conditions. The parsimonious solutions are therefore necessarily a subset of the intermediate solutions, which are a subset of the complex solutions. Raw coverage is the total ratio of the cases covered by the individual causal combination, and unique coverage is the ratio covered by the individual solution, subtracting out areas of coverage that intersect with any of the other solutions. “Consistency (with sufficiency)” is the ratio of consistency with which a solution is sufficient to bring about the coded outcome, measuring “the degree to which membership in each solution term is a subset of the outcome” (Ragin 2017:60).

Necessity, in contrast to sufficiency, describes to what degree the outcome is a subset of a causal condition or set of causal conditions (here, however, a set of causal conditions implies a logical OR rather than the logical AND used in sufficiency tests). Consistency is the extent to which the coded outcome is consistently associated with a condition or set of conditions, representing the degree of its necessity in producing the outcome. Coverage is how often the necessary condition results in the coded outcome. A condition with low coverage but high consistency would be necessary but insufficient for the coded outcome. Sufficiency and necessity analyses, taken in concert with the researcher’s knowledge of the cases, allow a fuller picture to form of the different complex formations of causal conditions associated with different outcomes.

Data for this study were compiled through an in-depth investigation of information from the World Bank, IMF, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), water company websites, various case studies, and data banks compiled by researchers involved in investigating water utilities.1 These sources were interrogated for comparative conditions and compiled into a comprehensive document, which can be found in Section 1 of the Appendix. The compiled information was then used to construct the fuzzy-set scores for the fsQCA analysis (the scores are given in Table 1; a discussion of scoring and calibration of the conditions is in the next section).

TABLE 1.

Privatization fsQCA scores

CountryPrivatized (P)Socialist (S)Crisis (C)*IFI (B)WaterWater (W)
Argentina 97.6 0.97 
Belize 92.9 0.33 
Bolivia 92.3 0.25 
Brazil 0.8a 96.7 0.85 
Chile 99.2 1.00 
Colombia 0.8b 97.4 0.94 
Costa Rica 0.1i 99.4 1.00 
Ecuador 0.3c 0.5j 87.9 0.00 
El Salvador 92.7 0.30 
Guatemala 89.8m 0.00 
Honduras 0.3d 94.2 0.51 
Mexico 1h 91.5n 0.14 
Nicaragua 1k 93.6 0.42 
Panama 97.8 1.00 
Paraguay 1k 92.3 0.25 
Peru 0.1e 0.2l 88.0 0.00 
Uruguay 0.1f 98.3 1.00 
Venezuela 0.1g 93.3 0.38 
CountryPrivatized (P)Socialist (S)Crisis (C)*IFI (B)WaterWater (W)
Argentina 97.6 0.97 
Belize 92.9 0.33 
Bolivia 92.3 0.25 
Brazil 0.8a 96.7 0.85 
Chile 99.2 1.00 
Colombia 0.8b 97.4 0.94 
Costa Rica 0.1i 99.4 1.00 
Ecuador 0.3c 0.5j 87.9 0.00 
El Salvador 92.7 0.30 
Guatemala 89.8m 0.00 
Honduras 0.3d 94.2 0.51 
Mexico 1h 91.5n 0.14 
Nicaragua 1k 93.6 0.42 
Panama 97.8 1.00 
Paraguay 1k 92.3 0.25 
Peru 0.1e 0.2l 88.0 0.00 
Uruguay 0.1f 98.3 1.00 
Venezuela 0.1g 93.3 0.38 
*

A score of 1 implies a systemic banking crisis occurred within two years prior to privatizing action, or otherwise has a demonstrably direct influence on privatization (see note 8 on Mexico).

Uncalibrated.

a

Some large-scale municipalities not privatized (e.g. Sao Paulo).

b

Policy implemented, but many large-scale municipalities went unprivatized (e.g. Bogota, Cali, Medellin).

c

No firm national policy, some large-scale privatizations (Guayaquil, Samborondon), some large-scale municipalities not privatized (Cuenca, Quito cancelled after protests).

d

The only large privatization occurred in San Pedro; most are run by nationalized company SANAA.

e

One large privatization (Tumbes) and one BOT.

f

Two small-scale concessions, reversed and banned by referendum a few years later.

g

A few short-term contracts (3–4 years) that were let expire or cancelled under Chavez.

h

Peso crisis (1985) ended four years prior to action (1989) but had a demonstrably direct influence.

i

Spanish bank Nmas1 was involved in the San Jose BOT proposal.

j

Some IFI support, but not much by way of financial support (relatively small loans featuring no conditionality).

k

Large loan cancelled with reforms/legislation.

l

KfW involved in Tumbes privatization.

m

No attempted privatization, so the lowest value during the time period was used (1990).

n

Data taken from the first available year (1990), but is only one year after loan (1989, IADB, $400m).

The final section of this study uses a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods to address the influence of nationalism on reversals of privatization (remunicipalizations and renationalizations). I begin with a set-theoretic analysis of the influence of the multinational (versus local) character of a corporation in the cases of reversal. This is done by showing the asymmetry of reversals between MNCs and local companies. Next I analyze trends in the water sector to investigate whether poor performance is the driver of reversals and to address neoliberal claims that marketization inherently generates an efficient distribution of resources. Finally, I qualitatively analyze local news sources and statements from the coalitions in opposition to water privatization for the use of nationalist rhetoric (e.g. frequent references to “the people” and sovereignty over water resources). Using the gathered information, I generate a configuration table that links GDP, transfers of MNC privatizations to local companies, reversals of privatization, and how these relate to nationalist rhetoric (Ragin 2000, 2008).2 

PATHS OF PRIVATIZATION

The first set of analyses had outcomes of Privatization (P, score of 1) and Not Privatization (p, score of 0). Here, Privatization refers to the transfer of water delivery services in urban municipalities from public to private operators. The primary unit of this study is the country; therefore, differences between municipalities are accounted for within the fuzzy score given to each country. Detailed delineations of what is captured in these scores are provided in Section 1 of the Appendix. Besides scores of 0 and 1 (no and full membership), also present in this analysis are scores of 0.1, 0.3, and 0.8. A score of 0.1 implies no national policy and a minimal number and scale of water privatizations. For example, Venezuela had three small-scale short-term (three-or-four-year) contracts, which were expeditiously cancelled or allowed to expire due to Hugo Chávez’s presidency. The cases scored 0.3 have some national programs to promote privatization and a few large privatizations, but their municipalities are primarily run by a nationalized water company. Ecuador, for example, received a small Modernization of Potable Water Sector Program loan from the IADB, which contributed directly to the privatization of Guayaquil and led to the privatization of Samborondon. The cases scored 0.8 have a strong national policy promoting privatization as well as many privatizations, but still have some large municipalities that are publicly run. In Colombia, Law 142 converted all public water utilities to stock companies, and the Management Modernization Program incentivized privatization. These policies, along with conditional loans from the World Bank and IADB, led to the privatization of many large-scale municipalities; however, many, such as Bogota, Cali, and Medellin, went unprivatized.

The causal conditions being considered in these analyses are Economic Crisis (C), International Financial Institution (B), Socialist Executive (S), and Water Coverage (W). Here, C is defined specifically as a systemic banking crisis (Laeven and Valencia 2012). A positive case indicates that a crisis precipitated privatization attempts. The B condition represents the involvement of IFIs in legislation and loans for privatizing water projects, with a positive case indicating that an IFI was directly involved in promoting privatization. S represents the presence of an executive belonging to a socialist party during the privatization attempt. This condition represents a firm local institutional barrier to privatization, as an explicitly socialist executive (even as compared to a center-left executive) would be in direct opposition to privatization, and ideologically committed to some form of public control of resources. W is the percentage of the urban population using improved water resources piped onto their premises, using data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation’s (2015) country reports. I calibrated the bounds of the condition to be one standard deviation (3.67%) above (97.80%, score of 1) and one standard deviation below (90.46%, score of 0) the mean water coverage for the data (94.13%). This condition represents a control for the technocratic arguments put forth by the propagators of neoliberalism, investigating whether efficient distribution of resources is in fact an imperative factor for privatization. Table 1 displays the fuzzy-set values of the outcome (P) and the evaluated causal conditions (S, C, B, and W, including the uncalibrated values for water coverage) for each of the analyzed countries across Latin America.

Privatization Results

In the first analysis, I set a positive result of P as the outcome, with C, B, S, and W as the causal conditions. Table 2 is the resulting truth table, with a consistency threshold set to 0.9, meaning that all combinations with a raw consistency above 0.9 will be coded as a positive case of Privatization (this threshold is arrived at by analyzing the raw consistency of the output data).

TABLE 2.

Privatization (P) truth table

Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)Water (W)CountPrivatized (P)Raw consistency
0.98 
0.92 
0.44 
0.31 
0.17 
0.16 
0.13 
Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)Water (W)CountPrivatized (P)Raw consistency
0.98 
0.92 
0.44 
0.31 
0.17 
0.16 
0.13 

A standard truth-table analysis was then conducted to determine the solutions (causal combinations) that are sufficient to result in P. The intermediate solution was coded to assume C, B, and s (no Socialist Executive); W was left uncoded, as I am positing that it has little to no effect on privatization. The results of this analysis are given in Table 3. C paired with s is associated with P with a relatively high consistency (0.85); B increases this consistency (0.93). Both of these solutions have a coverage of 0.68, suggesting uniformity of relevant cases. These results suggest that the addition of an IFI increases the likelihood of privatization, but is not required to achieve a relatively high sufficiency.

TABLE 3.

Privatization (P) solutions

SolutionRaw coverageUnique coverageConsistency
sC* 0.68 0.68 0.85 
sCB**/*** 0.68 0.68 0.93 
SolutionRaw coverageUnique coverageConsistency
sC* 0.68 0.68 0.85 
sCB**/*** 0.68 0.68 0.93 
*

Parsimonious solution

**

Intermediate solution

***

Complex solution

The results of necessity analyses for individual variables (C, B, s, w) are given in Table 4. Lack of Socialist Executive (s) has the highest consistency as a necessary condition (0.99). B has a high consistency in regard to the condition’s necessity (0.85), indicating a strong connection between Privatization and IFI presence. C is largely inconsistent, although it scores relatively high (0.69). Testing w (lack of water coverage) for necessity yields extremely inconsistent results (0.45), even tending slightly toward p: lack of water coverage is therefore not necessary for eventual privatization.

TABLE 4.

Privatization (P) necessity analyses

ConditionConsistencyCoverage
Crisis (C) 0.69 0.74 
International Financial Institution (B) 0.85 0.54 
No Socialist Executive (s) 0.99 0.44 
No Water Coverage (w) 0.45 0.39 
ConditionConsistencyCoverage
Crisis (C) 0.69 0.74 
International Financial Institution (B) 0.85 0.54 
No Socialist Executive (s) 0.99 0.44 
No Water Coverage (w) 0.45 0.39 

No Privatization Results

In the second analysis, I set No Privatization (p) as the outcome with the same set of causal conditions. A standard truth-table analysis was conducted to determine the solutions (causal combinations) that are sufficient to result in p. The intermediate solution was coded to assume c, b, and S (with w again left uncoded). The results of this analysis were convoluted, and W’s presence created erratic results that were not theoretically consistent (for example, cbW and cBw were both generated as intermediate solutions for p, indicating a tradeoff between IFI presence and the distribution of water; the truth table and results are given in Section 2 of the Appendix). I decided that W was confounding as an explanatory condition for p, and therefore reran the analysis with W removed as a condition. The resulting truth table, with a consistency threshold of 0.79, gave much more consistent results (Table 5).

TABLE 5.

No Privatization (p) truth table (with W removed as a condition)

Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)CountNot Privatized (p)Raw consistency
0.9 
0.81 
0.79 
0.13 
Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)CountNot Privatized (p)Raw consistency
0.9 
0.81 
0.79 
0.13 

With the new set of causal conditions, another standard truth-table analysis was conducted for the result of p. The intermediate solution was coded to assume c, b, and S (Table 6). Lack of Crisis (c) or the presence of a Socialist Executive (S) is sufficient for an outcome of p with a relatively high consistency (0.79 and 0.9, respectively). The complex solutions (sc and SCB) have the same consistencies and coverage as their shorter counterparts, indicating that they are perfect subsets of the parsimonious/intermediate solutions, which are therefore equally sufficient in bringing about a result of No Privatization.

TABLE 6

No Privatization (p) solutions

SolutionRaw coverageUnique coverageConsistency
S*/** 0.086 0.086 0.9 
c*/** 0.83 0.83 0.79 
sc*** 0.83 0.83 0.79 
SCB*** 0.086 0.086 0.9 
SolutionRaw coverageUnique coverageConsistency
S*/** 0.086 0.086 0.9 
c*/** 0.83 0.83 0.79 
sc*** 0.83 0.83 0.79 
SCB*** 0.086 0.086 0.9 
*

Parsimonious solution

**

Intermediate solution

***

Complex solution

The results of a necessity analysis of either the presence of a Socialist Executive or the absence of a crisis (S + c) for a result of No Privatization (p) are given in Table 7. The causal combination S + c shows a high consistency (0.91), suggesting that to avoid privatization, it is necessary for a country to have a socialist executive or to have no crisis. W was also tested as a necessary condition for p; its low consistency (0.49) confirms the disconnect between coverage and the status of ownership of water supply.

TABLE 7.

No privatization (p) necessity analysis

ConditionConsistencyCoverage
Socialist Executive or No Crisis
(S + c) 
0.91 0.8 
Water Coverage (W) 0.49 0.56 
ConditionConsistencyCoverage
Socialist Executive or No Crisis
(S + c) 
0.91 0.8 
Water Coverage (W) 0.49 0.56 

These results indicate that privatization and non-privatization of water delivery services in Latin America are largely the outcomes of the following combinations:

 
sC(B)=>P; S+c=>p

Discussion

These results firmly illustrate the process the TNS uses to push its agenda. The causal combination of a Crisis and a lack of Socialist Executive (sC) is likely to result in Privatization (with a consistency of 0.85), and the addition of an IFI (B) bolsters the consistency of the causal combination even further (to 0.93). Furthermore, a Socialist Executive (S) or a lack of Crisis (c) is necessary to avoid Privatization (with a consistency of 0.91). These results show strong support for the concept of “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey 2003, 2004). Devaluation of assets following crises creates an opportunity for IFIs and other members of the TNS to advance market neoliberalization and to appropriate these assets from less powerful nations. A socialist executive, however, is able to serve as an institutional barrier to privatization. Also, the inconsistency of W across all tests indicates that a lack of water coverage is not a causal condition of privatization, and the presence of water coverage is not a causal condition of no privatization. This disconnect is in direct opposition to the neoliberal rhetoric in support of privatization, implying that these privatizations were not an attempt to more efficiently distribute resources and help failing water supply systems. Rather, the results strongly support the hypothesis that, in the age of global capitalism and under the hegemony of neoliberalism, members of the TNS capitalize on crises to expand their influence and appropriate assets from periphery nations.

REVERSAL

Here I connect the dynamics of water privatization across Latin America to the generation of anti-privatization movements, investigating how the activation of nationalist sentiment can generate a reactionary mobilization against TNS. Table 8 gives the number of water municipalities and companies that were privatized, who they were privatized by (an MNC or a local company), how many MNCs were reversed (meaning remunicipalized or renationalized) or had their shares transferred to a local company, and what the final ownership was during the period of study (the last observed reversal of privatization occurred in 2006).

TABLE 8.

Water ownership counts

ArgBlzBolBzlChlColEcuHonMexPerUrgVnzTotal
Privatizations              
By multinational corporations (MNCs)  9  6 41 
By local co.  5  6 15 
Total 14  12 56 
Change in MNCs              
MNC reversals  5  0 13 
Transferred to local co.  2  0  5 
Total change  7  0 18 
Final counts              
MNC  2  6 23 
Local co.  7  6 20 
ArgBlzBolBzlChlColEcuHonMexPerUrgVnzTotal
Privatizations              
By multinational corporations (MNCs)  9  6 41 
By local co.  5  6 15 
Total 14  12 56 
Change in MNCs              
MNC reversals  5  0 13 
Transferred to local co.  2  0  5 
Total change  7  0 18 
Final counts              
MNC  2  6 23 
Local co.  7  6 20 

Results

Table 9 compares the degree of change in water coverage (WHO/UNICEF JMP 2015) and the change in number of MNCs. Three of the larger expansions in water coverage (Belize, Bolivia, and Brazil) resulted in reversals of privatization, two of which (Belize and Bolivia) resulted in complete expulsion of MNCs. Colombia’s water coverage even decreased (by 0.4%) during this period, and it retained all of its MNC water operations. Looking at the change in both coverage and MNCs, it would appear that Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru all had successful transitions to private owners; however, Mexico was the only country of these to be scored as fully Privatized, while the others had low Privatization scores (0.3, 0.3, and 0.1, respectively).

TABLE 9.

Water trends

ArgBlzBolBzlChlColEcuHonMexPerUrgVnz
Privatization (P) score 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 
Percentage change in multinational corporations −78% −100% −100% −60% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% −100% −100% 
Percentage change in water coverage 0.9% 2.2% 2.1% 2.3% 0.3% −0.4% 3.5% 1.9% 4.6% 2.8% 0.6% 0.4% 
ArgBlzBolBzlChlColEcuHonMexPerUrgVnz
Privatization (P) score 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1 
Percentage change in multinational corporations −78% −100% −100% −60% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% −100% −100% 
Percentage change in water coverage 0.9% 2.2% 2.1% 2.3% 0.3% −0.4% 3.5% 1.9% 4.6% 2.8% 0.6% 0.4% 

In this period, there were no reversals of concessions owned by local companies. Of those owned by MNCs, however, 13 were reversed and 5 were transferred to local ownership. This suggests a strong tie between the survivorship of private water companies and their national origins. The lack of cases in the upper right corner in Table 10 clearly suggests that it is necessary for the privatizing company to be an MNC to reverse a privatization.

TABLE 10.

Origin of company versus status

MNCLocal company
Reversal/transfer 18 (13 reversed / 5 transferred) 
No reversal 23 15 (plus 5 additional from transfers) 
MNCLocal company
Reversal/transfer 18 (13 reversed / 5 transferred) 
No reversal 23 15 (plus 5 additional from transfers) 

An interrogation of press releases (full texts given in Section 3 of the Appendix) from movements and leaders involved in movements for deprivatization shows a persistent use of nationalist rhetoric making overt and repeated references to “the people” and claims of national sovereignty over resources (as indicated in Calhoun 1997, Conversi 1995, and Tarrow 1994). The communiqués put out by La Coordinadora (1999–2000) in Cochabamba, Bolivia, make heavy use of nationalist language; they place the organization as the voice of the nation, and make claims of localized sovereignty over water resources. They also speak of autonomy and of ownership of their nation and its resources and attempt to enfold the plurality of their constituents into the national body by referring to the diversity of occupations and identities of their supporters. When they speak of “our humble, simple and industrious working people,” “our” and “people” are specifically referring to fellow nationals, placing a specific symbolic barrier between those who are and those who are not members of the nation. This language generates an imagined cohesion of the disparate groups of people in Cochabamban society, placing them in the context of an imagined community and a “people,” and is clearly indicative of the building of a national consciousness to generate support from Cochabambans and to mobilize constituents against global elites and the TNS. For example, La Coordinadora took aim at the World Bank and globalizing Bolivian politicians in their communiqué of January 28, 2000:

The Bolivian government would rather respond to the directives of the World Bank than take into account what the people themselves consider to be their needs. The heart of the problem is this: who decides about the present and the future of the people, resources, work and living conditions. We, with respect to water, want to decide for ourselves: this is what we call democracy.

After the renationalization of Belize’s water company, the prime minister, Said Musa, gave the following statements (as quoted in Great Belize Television 2005): “The buyback was done in the best interest of the Belizean people and will satisfy their legitimate demand to retrieve control of the water company. The people have spoken and we have achieved what the people wanted throughout the length and breadth of this country.” And: “There is an attempt in some quarters to decry government’s achievement by distorting the facts. But the Belizean people know better. All right-thinking people will give due credit to the government for this accomplishment.”

Musa also appealed to the Belizean public to mobilize in participation of the buyback to “keep Belizean water in Belizean hands.” These statements make direct appeals to sovereignty over resources, deference to the Belizean government’s authority, and consolidation of Belizean control over its water supply.

In Uruguay, groups in support of a referendum banning water privatization claimed that the referendum “secures the protection and sovereignty of this natural resource against attacks from transnational corporations transcending the national limits of Uruguay and setting a strong political precedent for the whole region” (IPS Correspondents 2004). This statement, like those from Belize and Bolivia, makes specific claims of sovereignty over national resources; it also makes specific reference to actors from the TNS and positions the conflict in terms of war (“attacks from transnational corporations”).

In contrast to these other examples, Venezuela’s reversals were intimately tied to the ascension of Hugo Chávez to the presidency. Chávez and the movement behind him embraced anti-imperialist nationalism in their rhetoric and in their policies (Gott 2000). Following his election, Chávez enacted a wide series of land reforms, constitutional amendments, and nationalizations, which largely aimed at expelling foreign control. Chávez’s cancelation of Venezuela’s few water supply contracts was one of these reforms, and a small part of the broader nationalist movement across the nation.

Discussion

These results validate the theory that nationalism in regard to sovereignty over resources is a primary mobilizing factor against the TNS (Bremmer and Johnston 2009; Harris 2006; Kaup and Gellert 2017; Walton 1993). The lack of connection between expansion of water coverage and reversals suggests that performance and lack of efficient resource distribution were not primary driving factors of the reversals of privatization. The necessity of the multinationalism of the privatizing company in triggering a privatization’s reversal points squarely toward this conclusion. There is also a clear demonstration of nationalist rhetoric around many of the cases of reversals of privatization (Calhoun 1997; Conversi 1995; Tarrow 1994).

Table 11 places the information relevant to the expulsion of MNCs into a configuration table, including national GDP, whether transfers to local companies or reversals of privatization took place, and whether there was a clear demonstration of nationalist rhetoric. Of the countries with decreases in MNC presence, those with the highest GDP (Argentina and Brazil) were the only ones with transfers to local companies and were the ones with the smallest decrease in MNC presence overall. I was also unable to find clear uses of nationalist rhetoric around these cases. This suggests that their larger presence in the global economy affects how social movements interact with it. Their more semi-peripheral status may make them less willing to be disruptive in the world order by engaging in anti-systemic nationalism and to move against the neoliberal hegemony. Hall and Lobina (2007) tie Argentina’s reversals of privatization to economic currents, crisis, and the devaluation of the Argentinian peso; the reversals that did occur in a high-GDP country were therefore strongly tied to international economic currents, rather than nationalist mobilization. Middle- and low-GDP countries, on the other hand, engaged in full reversals of all privatizations and employed nationalist rhetoric (overt and repeated references to “the people” and claims of national sovereignty over resources) to help generate popular mobilization.

TABLE 11.

Reversal configuration table

GDPTransfer to localReversalsNationalist rhetoric
Brazil High Yes No – 
Argentina High Yes Partial No 
Venezuela Middle No Full Yes 
Belize Low No Full Yes 
Bolivia Low No Full Yes 
Uruguay Low No Full Yes 
GDPTransfer to localReversalsNationalist rhetoric
Brazil High Yes No – 
Argentina High Yes Partial No 
Venezuela Middle No Full Yes 
Belize Low No Full Yes 
Bolivia Low No Full Yes 
Uruguay Low No Full Yes 

The results of the analyses of privatization and reversal, taken in concert, show how resource sovereignty operates in the age of global capitalism; they construct a causal pathway around the machinations of the TNS that culminates in water resources being in either public or private hands. Figure 1 is a diagram of this process. The instigating event of this sequence is the presence or absence of a crisis. If a crisis does not occur, water resources are likely to remain public. If a crisis does occur, the country is led to a critical juncture; here the determinative factor is whether the government is headed by a socialist executive. If a socialist executive is in power, water resources are likely to remain public; if not, IFIs will use the opportunity to push countries to sell off their water resources to private corporations. And here is the final critical juncture: whether the corporation is multinational or local. If the corporation is multinational, a nationalist backlash may be initiated, leading to a renationalization or remunicipalization of water resources. If the corporation is local, no backlash will occur, and the resources will remain private. These analyses show that, in the age of global capitalism, there has been a repositioning of the global political economy around the locus of the TNS. Systemic crises have become tools of the TNS to advance its neoliberal agenda; and its global elite members have become adversaries against which nationalist movements mobilize.

FIGURE 1.

Privatization under the transnational state causal pathway

FIGURE 1.

Privatization under the transnational state causal pathway

CONCLUSION

This paper has examined the political-economic and socio-structural factors that result in different outcomes of water privatization, specifically in Latin America, in the era of global capitalism. IFIs’ campaigns for restructuring of water economies have largely not produced the expected outcomes. Chile, for example, the country most often lauded and pointed to as a model for neoliberal reform, had invested heavily in water services and expanded coverage to most of its urban population prior to privatization, accounting for their positive results, and Bolivia’s privatizations resulted in massive price hikes and water cutoffs (Baer 2008, 2014). Despite this, neoliberal policies continue to be pushed by the members of the TNS; however, there is a complex web of socio-structural factors in the world-system that determine how shocks to a nation’s social, political, and economic systems are expressed and which causal pathway will be taken in the process of the appropriation of resources. I have investigated the influence of neoliberalism and nationalism in the age of global capitalism and have delineated a causal pathway of the dynamics of water sovereignty across all of Latin America. This study has shown that the presence of crises and the state of local politics had a heavy influence on the IFIs’ success in the privatization of water resources in Latin America. Following privatization, the nationality of the contracted water corporation becomes incredibly salient. If the corporation is multinational, a nationalist response to privatization may result in renationalization or remunicipalization of resources. These results show the TNS’s opportunistic use of crises to push its agendas, as well as the failure of neoliberal policy. They also indicate that deep attachment to the imagined community of the nation is a potent mobilizer against the TNS (Gould 1995; Olivera and Lewis 2004).

This study helps trace the feedback pathways which result in different outcomes of water privatization; however, much in regard to these processes remains to be addressed. How is nationalism involved in movements for resource sovereignty in core nations, and what forms does it take? Does crisis play as big a role in determination of resource ownership? How do the roles of ethnic minorities in core nations differ from those in the periphery? How do differential internal and external power structures affect resource ownership outcomes, and how does more dominant placement within the hegemonic structure of the world system influence these results? Also, this study focused on Latin America; do these processes differ regionally, even within the periphery? Further research along these lines could help provide a broader understanding of the interactions of resource sovereignty, nationalism, and neoliberal hegemony in the era of the TNS.

The currents of globalization are binding local economies more tightly to the world-system, necessitating a reimagining of the political economy of the world and a better understanding of the interaction of global social systems. Thomas Piketty (2014:573) writes that “only regional political integration can lead to effective regulation of the globalized patrimonial capitalism of the twenty-first century.” As the global economy increases in complexity and brutality it becomes increasingly difficult, and vital, for people to organize to fight for their rights and their freedoms (Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein 1989; Sassen 2014; Smith and Wiest 2012). This study demonstrates how localized political undercurrents can be effectively mobilized against the appropriation of resources by the TCC. This study adds to the literature demonstrating the power nationalism has as a galvanizing mobilization tactic, and suggests that leftist social and political leaders in periphery nations are able to use nationalist sentiment to drive anti-hegemonic economic and political shifts under the TNS. Popular mobilization around common social interests can drive more favorable economic restructuring for lower social strata and for periphery nations as a whole, and can ultimately disrupt the broader global power structures of the world-system, as long as these movements are able to effectively avoid appropriation by internal power dynamics.

Appendix: Methodological Supplement

SECTION 1. WATER POLICIES AND OWNERSHIP BY COUNTRY

Key

Regime
(Party, Political lean)
R Right/Nationalist/Militarist
C Center/Liberal
CL Center-Left/Social Democratic
S Socialist
Private Corp.
* Local corporation
=> Shares transferred to 
IFI International Financial Institution
EIB European Investment Bank
IADB Inter-American Development Bank
IMF International Monetary Fund
WB World Bank 
Regime
(Party, Political lean)
R Right/Nationalist/Militarist
C Center/Liberal
CL Center-Left/Social Democratic
S Socialist
Private Corp.
* Local corporation
=> Shares transferred to 
IFI International Financial Institution
EIB European Investment Bank
IADB Inter-American Development Bank
IMF International Monetary Fund
WB World Bank 

Argentina

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1980
1989
2001 
End 1982
1991
2003 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Law of State Reform 1989 Menem (Justicialist, R) WB, IMF Paired Argentina’s peso to the U.S. dollar to entice TNCs 
Public Enterprise Reform 1991 $300m Public Enterprise Reform Adjustment Loan 
Potable Water Sector Reform 1998  IADB $570.6m Loan for water sector reform 
PPP Promotion Loan 1999  WB $30m loan supporting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Buenos Aires (Aguas Argentinas) 1993, 1994 WB entry Suez/Vivendi/AgBar/Anglian Water WB/IADB 2005–6 Nationalized 
BA Province 1999 Azurix WB 2001–2 Provincial 
BA, Gran 1999, 2001 IADB entry Aguas de Bilbao IADB 2006  
Catamerca 2000 Vivendi/Proactiva   
Cordoba 1997 Suez => Grupo Roggio* EIB  
Corrientes  Latin Aguas*   
Formosa 1997 South Water*   
Mendoza 1998 SAUR and Azurix => Sielecki* IADB  Mendoza bought back most of SAUR’s shares 
Misiones 2001 Dragados/ACS/Urbaser EIB   
Rioja 2002 Latin Aguas*   
Salta 1999 Latin Aguas*   
Santa Fe 1995 Suez IADB 2006 Provincial 
Santiago del Estero 1997 South Water*   
Tucuman 1995 Vivendi/Veolia  1998 Provincial 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1980
1989
2001 
End 1982
1991
2003 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Law of State Reform 1989 Menem (Justicialist, R) WB, IMF Paired Argentina’s peso to the U.S. dollar to entice TNCs 
Public Enterprise Reform 1991 $300m Public Enterprise Reform Adjustment Loan 
Potable Water Sector Reform 1998  IADB $570.6m Loan for water sector reform 
PPP Promotion Loan 1999  WB $30m loan supporting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Buenos Aires (Aguas Argentinas) 1993, 1994 WB entry Suez/Vivendi/AgBar/Anglian Water WB/IADB 2005–6 Nationalized 
BA Province 1999 Azurix WB 2001–2 Provincial 
BA, Gran 1999, 2001 IADB entry Aguas de Bilbao IADB 2006  
Catamerca 2000 Vivendi/Proactiva   
Cordoba 1997 Suez => Grupo Roggio* EIB  
Corrientes  Latin Aguas*   
Formosa 1997 South Water*   
Mendoza 1998 SAUR and Azurix => Sielecki* IADB  Mendoza bought back most of SAUR’s shares 
Misiones 2001 Dragados/ACS/Urbaser EIB   
Rioja 2002 Latin Aguas*   
Salta 1999 Latin Aguas*   
Santa Fe 1995 Suez IADB 2006 Provincial 
Santiago del Estero 1997 South Water*   
Tucuman 1995 Vivendi/Veolia  1998 Provincial 

Belize

Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Creation of BWS 2001 Musa (People’s United Party, CL) BWS owns and operates all urban water delivery in Belize 
Purchase of BWS by Biwater 2001 
Renationalization of BWS 2005 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Creation of BWS 2001 Musa (People’s United Party, CL) BWS owns and operates all urban water delivery in Belize 
Purchase of BWS by Biwater 2001 
Renationalization of BWS 2005 

Bolivia

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1986
1994 
End 1986
1994 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Conditionality 1995 Banzer (Nationalist Democratic Action, R) WB, IMF UN IFIs provided assistance requiring conditional privatization of water supply 
Privatizations 1997–1999 Privatizations resulting from conditionalities 
Law 2029 1999 Opened urban water up to concession 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cochabamba 1999 Bechtel WB 2000 Municipal 
La Paz/El Alto 1997 Suez WB 2005 National 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1986
1994 
End 1986
1994 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Conditionality 1995 Banzer (Nationalist Democratic Action, R) WB, IMF UN IFIs provided assistance requiring conditional privatization of water supply 
Privatizations 1997–1999 Privatizations resulting from conditionalities 
Law 2029 1999 Opened urban water up to concession 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cochabamba 1999 Bechtel WB 2000 Municipal 
La Paz/El Alto 1997 Suez WB 2005 National 

Brazil

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1994 End 1998 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Programa Nacional de Desestatização 1990 Collor (National Reconstruction Party, R)  Created a program to sell off and privatize public assets 
Law 8987 Public Concession Act 1995 Cardoso (Brazilian Social Democracy Party, R)  Created framework for concessions 
Lei de Responsabilidade Fiscal 2000 IMF $41.5b loan
Created legal incentives to sell off public assets 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Campo Grande 2000 AgBar => Equipav*   
Limeira 1995 Suez => Odebricht*  Suez exited in 2007 
Manaus (Amazonas) 2000 Suez WB  
Minas Gerais (Belo Horizonte) 30.24% owned by investors through a stock exchange
Partnership with Paraguayan state company 
Parana 1998 Veolia WB Partial privatization, 52.5% owned by state 
Porto Alegre  
Rio de Janeiro 2000 Aguas de Portugal => Equipav* EIB  
Sao Paulo 49.7% owned by investors through a stock exchange 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1994 End 1998 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Programa Nacional de Desestatização 1990 Collor (National Reconstruction Party, R)  Created a program to sell off and privatize public assets 
Law 8987 Public Concession Act 1995 Cardoso (Brazilian Social Democracy Party, R)  Created framework for concessions 
Lei de Responsabilidade Fiscal 2000 IMF $41.5b loan
Created legal incentives to sell off public assets 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Campo Grande 2000 AgBar => Equipav*   
Limeira 1995 Suez => Odebricht*  Suez exited in 2007 
Manaus (Amazonas) 2000 Suez WB  
Minas Gerais (Belo Horizonte) 30.24% owned by investors through a stock exchange
Partnership with Paraguayan state company 
Parana 1998 Veolia WB Partial privatization, 52.5% owned by state 
Porto Alegre  
Rio de Janeiro 2000 Aguas de Portugal => Equipav* EIB  
Sao Paulo 49.7% owned by investors through a stock exchange 

Chile

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981 End 1981 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Water Code 1981 Pinochet (Junta, R) WB, IMF Laid plan for eventual privatization of state water assets 
General Water and Sanitation Law 1988  Resulted in the transformation of public water providers into public corporations 
Sale of public corporations 1998–1999 Frei (Christian Democrat, C)  Initiated sale of public water corporations to private entities 
Water Companies Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Altiplano 2004 Solari Group*    
Antofagasta 2003 Luksic Group*    
Araucania 2004 Solari Group*    
Aysen 2003 Hidrosan*/Icafal*/Vecta*    
Chañar 2003 Hidrosan*/Icafal*/Vecta*    
ESSAL 1999 Iberdrola => AgBar    
ESSEL 1999 Thames Water => OTPP    
ESSBIO 2000 Thames Water => OTPP    
ESVAL 1999 Anglian Water => OTPP    
Maipu  
Maule 1999 Thames Water => OTPP    
Magellanes 2004 Solari Group*    
Santiago (Aguas Andinas) 1999 AgBar    
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981 End 1981 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Water Code 1981 Pinochet (Junta, R) WB, IMF Laid plan for eventual privatization of state water assets 
General Water and Sanitation Law 1988  Resulted in the transformation of public water providers into public corporations 
Sale of public corporations 1998–1999 Frei (Christian Democrat, C)  Initiated sale of public water corporations to private entities 
Water Companies Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Altiplano 2004 Solari Group*    
Antofagasta 2003 Luksic Group*    
Araucania 2004 Solari Group*    
Aysen 2003 Hidrosan*/Icafal*/Vecta*    
Chañar 2003 Hidrosan*/Icafal*/Vecta*    
ESSAL 1999 Iberdrola => AgBar    
ESSEL 1999 Thames Water => OTPP    
ESSBIO 2000 Thames Water => OTPP    
ESVAL 1999 Anglian Water => OTPP    
Maipu  
Maule 1999 Thames Water => OTPP    
Magellanes 2004 Solari Group*    
Santiago (Aguas Andinas) 1999 AgBar    

Colombia

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1982
1998 
End 1982
2000 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Law 142 1994 Samper (Liberal, C) WB Mandated that all residential public service companies convert to stock companies with the possibility of being public, private, or mixed 
Strengthening comision Reguladora Agua y Sanitation 1995 IADB $1.7m loan promoting privatization 
Management Modernization Program 1997  Created additional incentives for private sector participation 
Water Sector Reform Assistance Project 2001 Pastrana (Conservative, R) WB $40m loan for water sector reform 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Barranquilla 1993 AAA*  
Bogota  
Cali  
Cartagena 1994 AgBar WB  
Girardot 1998 Suez  
Manizales  
Medellin  
Monteria 1999 Veolia  
Palmira 1997 Suez  
Santa Marta 1996 AgBar  
Soledad 2001 AAA*  
Tunja 1996 Veolia  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1982
1998 
End 1982
2000 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Law 142 1994 Samper (Liberal, C) WB Mandated that all residential public service companies convert to stock companies with the possibility of being public, private, or mixed 
Strengthening comision Reguladora Agua y Sanitation 1995 IADB $1.7m loan promoting privatization 
Management Modernization Program 1997  Created additional incentives for private sector participation 
Water Sector Reform Assistance Project 2001 Pastrana (Conservative, R) WB $40m loan for water sector reform 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Barranquilla 1993 AAA*  
Bogota  
Cali  
Cartagena 1994 AgBar WB  
Girardot 1998 Suez  
Manizales  
Medellin  
Monteria 1999 Veolia  
Palmira 1997 Suez  
Santa Marta 1996 AgBar  
Soledad 2001 AAA*  
Tunja 1996 Veolia  

Costa Rica

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1987
1994 
End 1991
1995 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Costa Rica’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership (AyA) 
San Jose BOT proposal 2002 Pacheco (Social Christian Unity, R) Nmas1 (Spanish Bank)  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1987
1994 
End 1991
1995 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Costa Rica’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership (AyA) 
San Jose BOT proposal 2002 Pacheco (Social Christian Unity, R) Nmas1 (Spanish Bank)  

Ecuador

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1982
1998 
End 1982
2000 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
    No firm national policy 
Modernization of Potable Water Sector Program 1995 Durán-Ballén (Republican Union Party, R) IADB $1.1m loan promoting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cuenca  
Guayaquil 2000 Bechtel/Edison (Interagua) IADB/WB  
Quito Plans for privatization cancelled after protests 
Samborondon 2000 AAA  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1982
1998 
End 1982
2000 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
    No firm national policy 
Modernization of Potable Water Sector Program 1995 Durán-Ballén (Republican Union Party, R) IADB $1.1m loan promoting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cuenca  
Guayaquil 2000 Bechtel/Edison (Interagua) IADB/WB  
Quito Plans for privatization cancelled after protests 
Samborondon 2000 AAA  

El Salvador

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1989 End 1990 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    El Salvador’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Water Sector Reform Loan 1998 Sol (Nationalist Republican Alliance, R) IADB $43.7m loan for reforms never instituted 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1989 End 1990 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    El Salvador’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Water Sector Reform Loan 1998 Sol (Nationalist Republican Alliance, R) IADB $43.7m loan for reforms never instituted 

Guatemala

Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Municipal    Guatemala’s water delivery has remained under municipal public ownership 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Municipal    Guatemala’s water delivery has remained under municipal public ownership 

Honduras

Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Mixed National and Municipal    Decentralized to municipalities, although most are run by the nationalized SANAA 
Water and Sanitation Investment 1999 Flores (Liberal, R) IADB $26m loan promoting privatizing municipal water supply, but not conditional 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
San Pedro 2001 Acea IADB  
Tegucigalpa  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start End 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Mixed National and Municipal    Decentralized to municipalities, although most are run by the nationalized SANAA 
Water and Sanitation Investment 1999 Flores (Liberal, R) IADB $26m loan promoting privatizing municipal water supply, but not conditional 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
San Pedro 2001 Acea IADB  
Tegucigalpa  

Mexico

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981
1994 
End 1985
1996 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Comisión Nacional del Agua 1989 Salinas (Institutional Revolutionary Party, C) WB, IADB Decentralized water supply management and promote privatization. Implemented the
National Potable Water, Sewerage and Sanitation Program
$600m loan from IADB 
Ley de Aguas Nacionales 1992 Promoted granting of concessions 
Water Supply Sector Reform Loan 2002  IADB $1m loan promoting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Aguascalientes 1994 Veolia  
Cancun 1993 AgBar/Azurix  
Mexico City 1995 Vivendi/Suez/Severn Trent/North West Water Group/Azurix Service contracts w public maintenance of ownership 
Navojoa 1996 TRIBASA*  
Saltillo 2001 AgBar  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981
1994 
End 1985
1996 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Comisión Nacional del Agua 1989 Salinas (Institutional Revolutionary Party, C) WB, IADB Decentralized water supply management and promote privatization. Implemented the
National Potable Water, Sewerage and Sanitation Program
$600m loan from IADB 
Ley de Aguas Nacionales 1992 Promoted granting of concessions 
Water Supply Sector Reform Loan 2002  IADB $1m loan promoting privatization 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Aguascalientes 1994 Veolia  
Cancun 1993 AgBar/Azurix  
Mexico City 1995 Vivendi/Suez/Severn Trent/North West Water Group/Azurix Service contracts w public maintenance of ownership 
Navojoa 1996 TRIBASA*  
Saltillo 2001 AgBar  

Nicaragua

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1990 End 1993 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Nicaragua’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Attempted reforms 1998 Aléman (Constitutionalist Liberal Party, R) IADB $51.6m loan to promote privatization, but reforms were cancelled 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1990 End 1993 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Nicaragua’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Attempted reforms 1998 Aléman (Constitutionalist Liberal Party, R) IADB $51.6m loan to promote privatization, but reforms were cancelled 

Panama

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1988 End 1989 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Panama’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership, supplied by IDAAN 
Attempted privatization of IDAAN 1998 Pérez Balladares (Democratic Revolutionary Party, CL)  Cancelled after protests 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1988 End 1989 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Panama’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership, supplied by IDAAN 
Attempted privatization of IDAAN 1998 Pérez Balladares (Democratic Revolutionary Party, CL)  Cancelled after protests 

Paraguay

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1995 End 1995 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Paraguay’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Water Sector Reform Loans 2002 González (Colorado, R) IMF Loans conditional on water sector privatization; reform struck down by the parliament 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1995 End 1995 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Nationalized    Paraguay’s water delivery has remained under national public ownership 
Water Sector Reform Loans 2002 González (Colorado, R) IMF Loans conditional on water sector privatization; reform struck down by the parliament 

Peru

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1983 End 1983 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Municipalization 1990 Garcia (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, CL)   
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cajamerca  
Huancayo  
Lima  
Piura-Paita  
Rio Chillon 2000 Acea BOT 
Tumbes 2005 Concyssa* KfW Joint venture with the Argentinian firm Latin Aguas 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1983 End 1983 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Municipalization 1990 Garcia (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, CL)   
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Cajamerca  
Huancayo  
Lima  
Piura-Paita  
Rio Chillon 2000 Acea BOT 
Tumbes 2005 Concyssa* KfW Joint venture with the Argentinian firm Latin Aguas 

Uruguay

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981
2002 
End 1985
2005 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Privatization 1998–2000 Sanguinetti (Colorado, C) Not a specific policy or initiative, but the government implemented 2 small concessions 
Privatization referendum 2004 Referendum under Batile regime (Colorado, R)  Public referendum outlawed privatization of water resources and nationalized supply 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Maldonado 1998 AgBar 2004 National 
Uruguay Aguas 2000 Iberdola/Aguas de Bilbao 2004 National 
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1981
2002 
End 1985
2005 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Privatization 1998–2000 Sanguinetti (Colorado, C) Not a specific policy or initiative, but the government implemented 2 small concessions 
Privatization referendum 2004 Referendum under Batile regime (Colorado, R)  Public referendum outlawed privatization of water resources and nationalized supply 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Maldonado 1998 AgBar 2004 National 
Uruguay Aguas 2000 Iberdola/Aguas de Bilbao 2004 National 

Venezuela

Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1994 End 1998 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Creation of HIDROVEN 1990 Perez (Democratic Action, CL) National, covers 80% of the population, 5 states governed at the state level 
Short term privatization contracts 1997–2001 Caldera (National Convergence, C); Chávez (5th Republic, S) IADB A small number of contracts implemented for short term operations, and were cancelled immediately or let expire when up for renewal under Chávez 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Lara 1999 Aguas de Valencia  2002  
Maracaibo 2001 AAA  2003 Almost immediately cancelled 
Monagas 1997 Vivendi  2001  
Systemic Banking Crisis Start 1994 End 1998 
National Policies Year Regime IFI Status/Notes 
Creation of HIDROVEN 1990 Perez (Democratic Action, CL) National, covers 80% of the population, 5 states governed at the state level 
Short term privatization contracts 1997–2001 Caldera (National Convergence, C); Chávez (5th Republic, S) IADB A small number of contracts implemented for short term operations, and were cancelled immediately or let expire when up for renewal under Chávez 
Water District Privatization Year Private Corp. IFI Reversal Year Status/Notes 
Lara 1999 Aguas de Valencia  2002  
Maracaibo 2001 AAA  2003 Almost immediately cancelled 
Monagas 1997 Vivendi  2001  

Data were compiled from Aguas Nuevas (2018), Baer (2008, 2014), Bauer (2004), Barrera-Osorio, Olivera, and Ospino (2009), EPMAPS, Agua de Quito (2017), Gómez-Loboa and Meléndez (2007), Grau et al. (2013), Hall (2010), Hall and de la Motte (2004), Hall and Lobina (2002, 2007, 2008), Hall, Lobina, and Corral (2010), Hall, Lobina, and Popov (2014), Inter-American Development Bank (2018), Laeven and Valencia (2012), LaVanchy, Romano, and Taylor (2017), Pereira (2014), Pineda (2002), Teichman (2001), WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (2015), World Bank, Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Board (2006), and World Heritage Encyclopedia (2018).

SECTION 2. NO PRIVATIZATION ANALYSES (WITH WATER COVERAGE INCLUDED)

TABLE A.

No Privatization (p) truth table (with W)

Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)Water (W)CountNot Privatized (p)Raw consist.
0.87 
0.73 
0.71 
0.28 
0.064 
Socialist (S)Crisis (C)IFI (B)Water (W)CountNot Privatized (p)Raw consist.
0.87 
0.73 
0.71 
0.28 
0.064 
TABLE B.

No Privatization (p) solutions (with W)

SolutionRaw CoverageUnique CoverageConsistency
S* 0.086 0.086 0.9 
bW* 0.27 0.27 0.87 
cBw*/** 0.27 0.27 
cbW** 0.27 0.27 0.87 
Sw** 0.059 0.059 
scBw*** 0.27 0.27 
scbW*** 0.27 0.27 0.87 
SCBw*** 0.059 0.059 
SolutionRaw CoverageUnique CoverageConsistency
S* 0.086 0.086 0.9 
bW* 0.27 0.27 0.87 
cBw*/** 0.27 0.27 
cbW** 0.27 0.27 0.87 
Sw** 0.059 0.059 
scBw*** 0.27 0.27 
scbW*** 0.27 0.27 0.87 
SCBw*** 0.059 0.059 
*

Parsimonious solution

**

Intermediate solution

***

Complex solution

SECTION 3. STATEMENTS DISPLAYING NATIONALIST RHETORIC

La Coordinadora’s Communiqués

Below are translated texts of La Coordinadora’s (1999–2000) communiqués with examples of the use of nationalist language in bold.

We have been the object of a great robbery, we are owners of nothing. Therefore, we, bus and taxi drivers, workers and neighbors together, sign this agreement and public statement in order to defend ourselves, in order to no longer permit this drunken spending spree of luxuries - of the good life for some, and suffering and privation for almost everyone else.
Because behind the deceitful government “dialogue”, they impose upon us … The workers and the community listen, respectfully pay attention, and suffer.
We unite because we are fed up with the simulation of democracy which only renders us obedient and impotent, and turns us into obliged voters and tax payers for the benefit of the rich; because it is urgent to begin to take action together … each sector does not have sufficient strength to resist alone … There is no individual salvation, we will improve everyone’s well being or no one’s.
Communication of La Coordinadora, December 1999
The Bolivian government would rather respond to the directives of the World Bank than take into account what the people themselves consider to be their needs. The heart of the problem is this: who decides about the present and the future of the people, resources, work and living conditions. We, with respect to water, want to decide for ourselves: this is what we call democracy.
Communication of La Coordinadora, January 28, 2000
The other great success of this movement is that we have lost our fear. We left our houses and communities in order to talk amongst ourselves, in order to get to know one another, in order to learn to trust one another again. We occupied the streets and highways because we are their true owners. We did it counting only on ourselves. No one paid us, no one sent us orders or fined us. For us, urban and rural workers, this is the true meaning of democracy: we decide and do, discuss and carry out. We risked our lives in order to complete what we proposed, that which we consider just. Democracy is sovereignty of the people and that is what we have achieved.
Communication of La Coordinadora. Sunday, February 6, 2000
After 15 years of neoliberalism, when we all believed that the model had snatched away the most important human values, such as solidarity, brotherhood, trust in one self and one another; when we believed that we were incapable of losing our fear, of having the capacity to organize ourselves and unite; when they had imposed upon us with all their strength a culture of obedience, of following orders; when we no longer believed in the possibility of being able to offer our lives and die for our hopes and dreams, to be heard, to make our words be taken into account; our humble, simple and industrious working people, composed of men and women, children and seniors, showed the country and the world that it is still possible.
Communication of La Coordinadora, April 2000
Men and women of Cochabamba, rights cannot be begged for, they must be fought for. No one is going to fight for ours. We will fight together for what is just or we will tolerate the humiliation of bad government.
Declaration to Cochabamba from La Coordinadora, Monday, January 10, 2000 

Belize’s Renationalization (Said Musa qtd. in Great Belize Television 2005).

“As of today the government has assumed the management and control of Belize Water Services. This is a major achievement by our government. The buyback was done in the best interest of the Belizean people and will satisfy their legitimate demand to retrieve control of the water company. The people have spoken and we have achieved what the people wanted throughout the length and breadth of this country.”
“There is an attempt in some quarters to decry government’s achievement by distorting the facts. But the Belizean people know better. All right-thinking people will give due credit to the government for this accomplishment.”
“I will encourage all Belizeans, especially Belizean entrepreneurs, to fully participate in the process of acquiring B.W.S. shares so that we can keep Belizean water in Belizean hands.” 

Uruguay’s Referendum (IPS Correspondents 2004).

“The referendum promoted by the National Commission for the Defence of Water and Life, made up of the trade union representing the employees of the state-owned water and sewerage company Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) and several civil society organisations.”
“The groups underline that the constitutional amendment ‘Secures the protection and sovereignty of this natural resource against attacks from transnational corporations transcending the national limits of Uruguay and setting a strong political precedent for the whole region.’” 

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NOTES