Protect Water, Not Breweries

The town of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, is experiencing an environmental crisis that poses a threat to its people and agriculture.

Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 company, is planning to open a brewery for Grupo Modelo in the town of Mexicali in 2019. The town is an ideal location because the company plans to export the beer to their biggest consumer, the United States.

Mexicali Resiste, a grassroots movement made up of farmers and other citizenry of Mexicali, is protesting against this privatization of water. The town of Mexicali is in an agricultural region with limited water resources that is plagued by drought. Therefore, a beer company that would consume 20 million liters of drinking water a year (equal to drinking water for 750,000 people) places the town at stake.

Since 2010, breweries have taken control of border towns. After the NAFTA deal was signed, border cities became a haven for foreign manufacturers, most gathering in Baja California.

Last year, Mayor Leoncio Martinez Sanchez of the municipality of Zaragoza accused another Constellation Brand brewery of using up so much water that it left his town dry of drinking water. However, Jorge Burgos, the brewery director of Constellation Brands’ Mexicali offices, claims that the water that will be used for the new brewery is designated for agriculture but unused by farmers.

The National Water Commission released a report stating that 37.5 percent of Mexico’s aquifers are overexploited, causing Mexicali to suffer the most. Consequently, farmers have stopped producing on large sections of the land.

Last December, Governor Francisco Vega passed a Water Law Bill that would allow private actors to access the state’s water, but the law was reversed after mass protests. In Baja California alone, around six percent of households lack running water.

The citizens’ resistance has been met with repression, arrests and legal battles. Feb. 13 marked a year of opposition against Constellation Brands’ plan to build another brewery. Mexicali Resiste are calling for a nationwide protest against all Constellation Brands’ products such as Corona, Modelo, Pacifico and Ballast Point.

Mexicali Resiste has become a fierce opponent to Constellation Brands, growing to be a watchdog creating a culture of documentation and research within the citizenry, leading them to closely monitor and confront politicians about their shady dealings with the company. They’ve organized themselves with legal and communications commissions, and taken their message to social networks.

Since the emergence of the plans for the new brewery, activists have chosen to blockade the construction site and multiple government buildings, withstanding extreme weather conditions.

Constellation Brands claims that the brewery would supply 450 permanent jobs. However, it is evident through their lack of transparency that Constellation Brands is acquiring cheap water along with cheap labor. Water is a basic human right on the edge of privatization. This is a scenario all too common under capitalism, when monopolizing the basic staples of life becomes an everyday occurance. The battle to defend water is escalating.

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