Friday, December 9, 2022

Brewery protesters clash with police

An organization protesting the construction of a brewery in Mexicali, Baja California, clashed with police last night resulting in the arrests of at least three protesters in yet another chapter in the months-long saga.

Mexicali Resiste — made up of farmers and other residents who fear that the brewery will divert water required for agricultural use — have prevented several 30-tonne containers from reaching the construction site for over a week.The group claims that the transport firm does not have the necessary permits to move the oversized cargo.

But last night a police escort supported by local, state and federal security forces enabled the delivery of the tanks to the site of the Constellation Brands plant.

But the final journey wasn’t completely devoid of obstacles or opposition.

When the trucks carrying the tanks approached the site’s entrance, three members of Mexicali Resiste blocked their access by lying across the road but were arrested by authorities.

Other protesters were involved in physical confrontations with police officers.

Those detained included one woman — a retired teacher — and two men. They were transported to a municipal police station but were expected to be transferred later to local facilities of the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR).

They were among a group  that has been camped at the site for the past 10 days, effectively stopping vehicles from coming and going.

It is the second time that large containers have been transported to the brewery site and both times complaints have been made that the tanks were allowed to be transported despite exceeding cargo size limits.

In a press release, Constellation Brands thanked authorities for their efforts to enable the containers to reach the site and stated they have the necessary permits to continue with the current stage of construction.

The company, the third largest beer maker in the United States, reiterated that it was making an investment in Mexico in the billions of dollars and it would create 750 permanent jobs in Mexicali and 3,000 to 4,000 positions during construction.

“We are one of the biggest investors in Mexicali, if not the biggest,” remarked the company’s vice-president for corporate communications, Michael McGrew.

The company has shown that it won’t be deterred by community resistance to the project nor by a state government decision to halt plans for a 47.5-kilometer aqueduct project that would have provided water to the brewery.

The Baja California Water Commission announced the cancellation last month due to what state Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid described as “the company’s lack of a water quota.”

Despite the cancellation, the company still has the support of the Baja California government.

Constellation Brands did not waste any time in finding another water source.

The brewery — expected to be operational some time in late 2019 — has already started building its own water supply system using its own funds and McGrew said that the aqueduct cancellation “has no bearing on the project.”

The brewery’s capacity will initially be 500 million liters annually although there are plans to double that to 1 billion liters with the possibility of even reaching 2 billion at some point.

Its water requirements have been estimated at 15 million cubic meters per year, or close to 6% of the state’s annual consumption.

However, the company places its water needs at a more modest seven million cubic meters annually once full production capacity is reached and says that amount represents less than 1% of the water needs of the agriculture rich Mexicali valley.

The company, which supplies popular Mexican brands Corona and Modelo to the U.S. market, already operates breweries in the border states of Sonora and Coahuila.

The Mexicali site was chosen for its proximity to the U.S. as all the beer made there will be sold across the border.

Mexicali Resiste is gearing up for another large protest on Monday when President Enrique Peña Nieto will visit the city. Water quotas is a federal government issue.

Local community land owners — or ejidatorios — first raised concerns about the construction of the brewery and aqueduct, water availability and its fair distribution in December last year.

Source: Reforma (sp), The San Diego Union-Tribune (en), Noticias MVS (sp)

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