Friday, December 9, 2022

5 arrested in clash of police, protesters

There was yet another episode yesterday in the long-running battle against the construction of a brewery in Baja California.

At least five people were arrested and seven injured during a series of clashes between police and protesters at the Mexicali site where international beverage company Constellation Brands is building a US $1 billion plant.

The demonstrators are opposed to the construction of the brewery because they say that it will divert water required for agriculture and human needs.

State Public Security Secretary Gerardo Sosa Olachea said state and municipal police officers were called to the site after the company reported that protesters were attempting to stop workers from continuing excavation of the last section of an aqueduct that will supply water to the plant.

The first clash occurred at around 6:00am after police arrived and were met by protesters throwing stones at them.

Intermittent confrontations continued for hours and it was already afternoon by the time police managed to break up the protest following at least five failed attempts.

Among the injured were a police officer and a journalist who was struck by a stone.

Sosa Olachea said state and municipal police will patrol the site and surrounding area until the work has been completed.

According to state authorities, yesterday’s events were preceded by another clash between protesters and authorities Monday.

Following an act of vandalism that resulted in damage to a pipe that passes near the brewery site and supplies water to the state capital, personnel from the State Public Services Commission attended to shut off valves and repair a leak.

However, they were also met by a group of people who attempted to obstruct their work by throwing things at them.

After sealing off the leak, the workers were forced to abandon the site without fully completing their work.  Approximately 60,000 liters of water are estimated to have been lost before the pipe was repaired.

Since 2016, a group called Mexicali Resiste — made up of farmers and other local residents concerned about pressure the brewery will place on the local water supply — has employed a variety of tactics to demonstrate its opposition to the construction project.

They included setting up blockades to prevent access to the site, two protesters climbing to the top of a construction crane to start a hunger strike and physically confronting police officers.

In May last year, the state government scrapped a 47.5-kilometer aqueduct project that would have supplied water to the brewery.

However, the company quickly responded by saying that it had already started building its own water supply system and the government decision “has no bearing on the project.”

Constellation Brands, the third largest beer maker in the United States, has consistently maintained that its investment in Mexico would create 750 permanent jobs in Mexicali and 3,000 to 4,000 positions during construction of the new plant.

The new brewery is expected to be operational by late 2019.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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