Demonstrators protest against Mexicali brewery. Demonstrators protest against Mexicali brewery.

Brewery vote threatens future investment: state and business sector

Warnings follow approval of public vote on US $1.5-billion Baja California project

State politicians and business leaders are warning that an unprecedented public consultation on the construction of a brewery in Baja California could threaten investment.

Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex) president Gustavo de Hoyos said the $1.5-billion Constellation Brands factory in Mexicali represents one of the most significant investments in the history of the state, if not the country.

He cautioned that many jobs could be lost if the project is not allowed to continue. According to Constellation Brands, the factory is expected to create about 5,000 jobs.

“If it [construction] is blocked . . . it would be an irreversible blow to the reputation of Mexico’s production sector. You can be sure that the company will quickly head over to Sonora or Coahuila where they can use the investment and where they will be well received. Baja California will lose out.”

Baja California Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid added that the public referendum sends the wrong message to potential investors and worried that it might halt the government’s social and economic agenda.

Constellation Brands vice-president Julio Portales said that subjecting private investments to public vote generates uncertainty for investors and reflects badly on a region.

“The direct impact is that not only would the money put into the construction be lost, but also a 489-million-peso [US $25-million] contribution to the state’s economy.”

In December he warned that foreign investors would think again before investing in Mexico if the brewery is forced to move.

The state electoral institute (IEEBC) approved the consultation last week over the protests of politicians and business people after the civil association Plebiscito Colectivo submitted the signatures of 20,000 residents to the institute requesting the public vote on the brewery’s construction.

Some Mexicali residents have expressed concern that the brewery’s expected use of 1.8 million cubic liters of water every year could significantly exacerbate problems in a growing city that already does not have adequate access to water.

The company claims that its operations will not affect citizens’ access to water and will only use 0.05% of the valley’s water resources.

The referendum is historical: it would be the first public vote on a private project in the region.

Source: El Economista (sp), Manufactura (sp)

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