Access to Vital Water Supply in Mexicali (Mexico): The First Victim of NAFTA 2.0

IN THIS MESSAGE:

(1) To Boot Out Constellation Brands, We Need to Break with the T-MEC (aka USMCA or NAFTA 2.0) — Statement by the OPT of Mexicali, Baja California (Mexico)

Background Articles

(2) Mexican President Criticizes Constellation’s Brewery in Mexican Border City — Reuters, Sept. 3, 2019

(3) Mexico Protesters Fear US-Owned Brewery Will Drain their Land Dry — The Guardian, Feb. 4, 2018

(4) As Big Beer Moves In, Activists in Mexicali Fight To Keep Their Water ‚ The SALT, March 26, 2018

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FIN OPT BANNER HEADLINE

1) To Boot Out Constellation Brands, We Need to Break with the T-MEC (aka USMCA or NAFTA 2.0)

An Independent Policy Is Needed, Combined with the Organization of the Workers, Women and Youth

Statement by the Organization of the People and Workers (OPT) of Mexicali, Baja California (Mexico)

MEXICALI, Jan. 24, 2020 — Mexico’s secretary of the environment and the governor of the state of Baja California, together with the municipal president of the city of Mexicali, have just endorsed the continued building of the Constellation Brands brewery in Mexicali. They did this despite the fact that citizens’ and environmental groups in resistance have demonstrated with scientific and legal arguments why the brewery should not be built. In so doing, the authorities have given the green light to the theft of our natural resources, placing the profit interests of a U.S. transnational corporation above the right to water in a water-starved region of Mexico.

The main argument for allowing the building of the brewery to go forward is that as a result of the signing of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA in its English acronym, or T-MEC in its Spanish acronym), a halt to its construction by the Mexican authorities would trigger the convening of an international tribunal (as established by T-MEC), and Mexico could face serious charges — including fines, increased tariffs, and even sanctions — for noncompliance with the new treaty.

In other words, for the federal, state and local governments, the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of Mexicali no longer matters. Nor does it matter that the permits to begin building the brewery were obtained illegally under the corrupt government of Kiko Vega. Nor does it matter that top water experts have called for a halt to the brewery because of its devastating environmental impact.

The T-MEC “free trade” treaty is a plan to plunder our resources and promote the policy of surrendering Mexico’s sovereignty and rights to U.S. transnational corporations. It’s the continuation and deepening of plan initiated with the 1994 NAFTA agreement that has been implemented by the governments of the PRI and the PAN — and now by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Despite the fact that AMLO and the legislators of MORENA had the historic opportunity to reject this treaty, given that they have a majority in both chambers of Mexico’s Congress, they have instead aligned themselves more closely with the interests of the U.S. government, turning their backs on the mandate for change entrusted to them by the Mexican people. The struggle to boot out Constellation Brands cannot be fought only at the local level, and nor can it be restricted to a fight at the legal level. We must link up with other sectors and movements at the national level which, just as we are doing, are building the resistance to the policies of plunder and destruction. We also must strengthen our ties across the Mexico-U.S. border.

We must count on the independent organization of the mass resistance movement, and we must push to repeal the T-MEC before more damage is done, as the T-MEC today represents the main obstacle to our resistance efforts across Mexico. That is why we invite you to participate in the binational conference against the T-MEC, against Trump’s Wall of Shame and against the Trump-AMLO immigration policy. The conference will be held the first days of May in the city of Tecate, Baja California. This is an initiative launched by independent political and union activists from both sides of the border.

If you want to participate, or if you wish more information, contact us at opt.baja@gmail.com.

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FIN GO HOME

2) Mexican President Criticizes Constellation’s Brewery in Mexican Border City

Intro comment:

The Reuters article below reports on the stance taken by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador before the U.S. Congress ratified the NAFTA 2.0 treaty. Now Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Victor Manuel Toledo Manzur, speaking on AMLO’s behalf, says that what was true last September, when AMLO opposed the building of the brewery in Mexicali, no longer applies today because of the constraints imposed by the new trade agreement. Access to the vital supply of water in the Mexicali region is the first victim of NAFTA 2.0. — Alan Benjamin

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters, Sept. 3, 2019) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday criticized the location of Constellation Brands Inc’s planned brewery in the northern border city of Mexicali.

The massive, partly-built brewery has been a bone of contention with local protest groups, which argue it will cause water shortages in one of the driest regions of the country.

Lopez Obrador told a regular news briefing that authorities should not be granting permits to create dairy areas and build breweries in the north of Mexico where water is scarce.

“Just imagine the authorization they gave to build a big plant to produce beer in Mexicali. No,” the president said, without mentioning Constellation Brands by name.

“If someone wants to produce beer — in case it’s necessary — in the southeast, that’s where the Papaloapan is, the Grijalva, the Usumacinta,” he added, naming several major rivers in Mexico. “That’s where 70% of the country’s water is.”

Lopez Obrador raised the subject of the brewery when discussing what his government was doing to protect the environment.

The president did not speak further on the brewery, but said there should be more “horizontal development” in Mexico, where the south has long lagged behind the north economically.

Constellation, the U.S. producer of Corona and Modelo beers, has said the plant will not threaten local water supplies. The company unveiled the project in January 2016 with a price tag of $1.5 billion, saying it would take 4 to 5 years to build.

A veteran leftist, Lopez Obrador maintains the previous six governments were tainted by “neo-liberal” economics that served to enrich a corrupt political and corporate elite.

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FIN MEXICALI RESISTE FIN

3) Mexico Protesters Fear US-Owned Brewery Will Drain their Land Dry

Deal between a state government and the U.S.’s third biggest brewer could put beer for Americans before water for Mexicans

  • By David Agren in Mexicali
  • The Guardian
  • Sun 4 Feb 2018

Carmelo Gallegos used to sow wheat in the cool winters and cotton in scorching-hot summers of the Mexicali valley. These days, water is so scarce he can only plant one crop a year.

But on top of drought and a sinking water table, the 61-year old farmer now has another preoccupation. A huge brewery is being built in the nearby city of Mexicali, and Gallegos – like many others – fears it will suck up what little water remains to make beer for export to the U.S.

Gallegos and other farmers see themselves as the victims of an unhealthy deal between the state government of Baja California and Constellation Brands, the third biggest brewer in the U.S.

“They’re managing the water as if it were loot to be divvied up among them,” he said. “The government’s intention is to leave us with nothing, without land and without water.”

The new plant is projected to start production in 2019, churning out nearly 4 million bottles a day of beers including Corona, Modelo and Pacífico.

But the project has provoked a fierce backlash among local farmers and residents who have come together in a movement known as Mexicali Resists. Last summer, thousands of people joined angry demonstrations outside the state government offices, and blocked deliveries to the construction site.

Since the new year, unrest has flared up again after riot police and private security guards clashed with protesters who had blocked the construction of a new water pipe to the factory. Dozens of activists have set up a protest camp near the construction site, with huge signs reading “Constellation go home”.

“We’re already having water shortages,” said protester Ana López. “Now imagine when the plant starts working.”

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) was signed 25 years ago, foreign manufacturers have flocked to Baja California. Border cities such as Tijuana and Mexicali have expanded rapidly.

Nafta transformed Mexico’s closed economy into one focused on exports. But it has also caused discontent among farmers in the Mexicali valley, who say the country has lost sight of the principles of sovereignty and self-sufficiency.

Older farmers fondly recall a time when the government provided credit and gave subsidies for fuel and fertilizer (even though such schemes were often plagued by corruption).

In the 1940s, more than 100 communal properties known as ejidos were created in the Mexicali valley by breaking up a vast foreign-owned cotton-growing company. With the land came water rights – which the farmers still jealously defend.

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ECOCIDA

Constellation Ecocide: If You Steal Our Water, You Take Away Our Lives!

4) As Big Beer Moves In, Activists in Mexicali Fight To Keep Their Water

  • By Alex Zaragoza
  • The SALT
  • March 26, 2018

It’s a blustery day in the border town of Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico, and five men are huddled inside a makeshift encampment covered with protest signs outside the city’s government offices. The intense wind makes the tarps serving as walls flap loudly, like Batman’s cape as he propels down a building. And just like Batman, they say they’re there for justice.

Jesus Galaz Duarte, Mauricio Villa, Alberto Salcido, Francisco Javier Trujillo and Jorge Benitez all form part of Mexicali Resiste, an activist group fighting the opening of a new brewery by the Fortune 500 company Constellation Brands. Constellation makes wines, spirits and beer, including Corona, Modelo and Pacifico as well as beers from craft brewer Ballast Point. The company has set up offices in the city, and is working with the local government to build a $1.5 billion brewery that will use local water to make beer for American consumers.

The brewery is slated to open in about five years, and plans to invest another $500 million for infrastructure, land and water rights to double production over time. It will initially make 10 million hectoliters of beer (roughly 264 million gallons), according to the company press release. Constellation Brands says it will use 3.5 liters of water from local wells to produce one liter of beer, amounting to 1.8 billion gallons of water a year.

While not a drop of the beer would go to the Mexican market, Constellation Brands says the brewery will create 750 permanent jobs in Mexicali.

But members of Mexicali Resiste say the negative impacts far outweigh the possible benefits, and are hoping to stop Goliath in his tracks. They’ve set up encampments, held marches and led protests that have in some cases erupted in violence. Videos showing members throwing rocks and being bloodied by police batons have gone viral. Members also claim to have been harassed and threatened, beaten and had their offices burglarized.

“It’s a model of exploitation and capitalism where they basically come for the natural resources to exploit them and take them away to wherever the market is,” says Galaz Duarte. “When the market grows and has to to satisfy consumers, they’re going to deplete the water here. So what’s going to happen? They’re going to go to another place where there’s more water to satisfy the same market and deplete their water. They’re going to leave this region without the resources to live a dignified life.”

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Not Even For Beer Will We Trade Away Our Water!

A strained water system

Water is a precious commodity, especially in Mexicali and many neighboring cities where it isn’t uncommon to wake up in the morning to find there’s no running water. About four hours southeast of Los Angeles, Mexicali’s temperatures are the highest in all of Mexico, reaching up to 125 degrees F. Local agriculture heavily relies on municipal water sources and the Colorado River as there’s virtually no rainfall throughout the year.

Around 300,000 people in Baja California live without regular access to water, and nearly 6 percent of households lack running water. Tijuana and Mexicali are hit hardest, Mexico’s government reports. However, the count only includes water for bathing, washing, gardening, etc. Mexico’s tap water is unsafe to drink, so drinking water has to be purchased from outside companies.

The National Water Commission (Conagua) has reported that 37.5 percent of Mexico’s aquifers are overexploited, with Mexicali’s suffering most. This has led local farmers to stop producing on large sections of land.

Activists, local farmers, and many others are demanding answers as to why, with such a scarcity of water, the government is giving Constellation Brands millions of gallons of it to make beer for American consumers.

“The situation with Constellation Brands is born out of a circuit of corruption,” says Salcido. “All that corruption was seen reflected with the welcoming of a beer company from the United States that has demonstrated will be a straw that is going to consume millions of liters of water knowing that water is needed by farmers and more than anything the city.”

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Water Dispute Heightens Tensions Between U.S., Mexico

Jorge Burgos, brewery director at Constellation Brands’ Mexicali offices, assures there’s no laws being broken or ethics being violated.

“A company like Constellation Brands is managed with international standards in terms of high ethics and values,” he says. “Constellation Brands has been in the U.S. for more than 70 years, and for a company to have that kind of permanence, it has to be managed with high national and international standards of ethics and values, and the care of the environment and natural resources. It’s implicit.”

But activists point out the cozy relationship Constellation has with the government. The legal representative for Constellation Brands, Sergio Eduardo Montes Montoya, also works in the mayor’s office as the director of Urban Administration. Senator Victor Hermosillo Celada’s company, Hermosillo and Associates, is leading the construction of the multi-billion dollar brewery, and speaks openly about his political and business dealings.

Constellation Brands denies the suggestion of corruption. It issued a statement in response to NPR’s questions:

“No government officials or authorities in office have been hired by Constellation Brands. We continue to work with local authorities to ensure all aspects of our brewery construction project are in full compliance with all applicable rules, regulations and laws. This has been validated by Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior,” it says.

Members of the Mexican government contacted about the same allegations have yet to respond.

Constellation Brands already operates one of the largest breweries in the world out of the city of Nava in Coahuila, which opened in 2010. The company is in the process of expanding it. Constellation also operates a brewery in the city of Sonora in Obregon, which it also plans to expand.

As Burgos explains, the company chose Mexicali for its third Mexican brewery because of its proximity to the border and intended market. The city also offers a glass bottle plant, a cardboard plant and potential for an aluminum can plant, all of which represent 70 percent of Constellation Brands’ supply costs.

Burgos says the brewery will use water that is designated for agriculture but isn’t being used by farmers, so it’s not taking any extra from the city’s water sources. “The water isn’t going to run out,” he says. “We come with the directive to take care of the natural resources.”

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A pattern of privatization

Activist Galaz Duarte says the brewery’s influence is part of a larger problem. He worries that a lack of transparency and public involvement may lead to the privatization of water that will benefit big corporations, including Constellation Brands, the government, and politicians at the expense of the people.

In December, Baja California governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega introduced a controversial Ley del Agua (Waters Law) Bill that would allow private entities to access the state’s treated water and build services around it. But it was recently rescinded after mass protests. Projects like the Constellation Brands brewery raise questions about continued efforts to privatize water.

“Basically this government has based its business model around selling the public’s water,” says Galaz Duarte. “In this model, anything can be bought. Everything has a price.”

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Alex Zaragoza is a freelance culture writer based in Los Angeles. She was raised on the U.S.-Mexico border. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram 

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