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NEWS: Coca-Cola director to head OTPP-owned Chilean water utility

Jorge Lesser García-Huidobro

Jorge Lesser García-Huidobro

On January 16, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera named Pedro Errazuriz, president of the water company Essbio, the country’s new minister of transportation. You may remember that Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan hand-delivered a letter to Errazuiz during the World Water Congress meeting in Montreal last September outlining our opposition to the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan investments in private water in Chile, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4643.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns 50.83 percent of the Chilean water utility Essbio and 69.4 percent of Esval.

Now there are two disturbing new developments:

Business News Americas has reported that, “President Sebastian Piñera announced in December that state development agency Corfo would sell its minority stake in utilities Aguas Andinas, Essbio, Esval and Essal (in other words fully privatize these water utilities) to fund the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by the February 2010 earthquake.” There is no word yet if the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan intends to increase its ownership share of these water utlities.

– Essbio has named Jorge Lesser García-Huidobro as the new president of its board of directors, replacing Errazuiz. A web-based biography notes that, “Mr. Lesser García-Huidobro has been a Director of Coca-Embonor Cola S.A. since April 1999.” As a majority shareholder in Essbio, it can be presumed that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan had some say in the selection of a Coca-Cola Chile Board member to head this water utility.

Coca-Cola Embonor S.A. is engaged in the franchise, distribution and sale of products under license from The Coca-Cola Company in Chile and Bolivia. In Chile, the Company also distributes Vital mineral water and un-carbonated drink brands belonging to The Coca-Cola Company, including Kapo, Andifrut and Nectar Andina. Just this past week, Coca-Cola Chile announced that it would sell its stake in Chilean bottler Coca-Cola Embonor to Revenue Libra Holding.

The Council of Canadians has been calling on the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan to divest from for-profit water utilities in Chile and for the ownership of these private, for-profit water utilities to be fully transferred back to public control. A series of campaign blogs on this issue can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22Ontario+teachers%22.