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Brewery opponents outside the electoral institute's office. Brewery opponents outside the electoral institute's office.

Elections authority reverses earlier decision, halts Baja brewery vote

Opponents of the brewery project charge money may have changed hands

Electoral authorities in Baja California have reversed a decision to allow a public consultation on a US $1.5-billion brewery in the Mexicali valley.

Late last year, the Baja California Electoral Institute (IEE) received a request supported by more than 18,000 signatures for a plebiscite on the controversial brewery that is being built by international beverage company Constellation Brands.

The IEE approved the request last month but yesterday five of six members of its general council voted against the consultation going ahead.

Clemente Ramos Mendoza, president of the general council, said the IEE is not the authority to which citizens should have turned in order to try to stop the construction of the brewery.

“There are federal tribunals for that . . . administrative courts. They are the relevant authorities . . .” Ramos said, rejecting any claim that he and other councilors were “the bad guys in the movie.”

He also called on the Baja California government to inform the public about the policies it will adopt in order to guarantee water supply in the state.

Farmers and other local residents who claim that the brewery will divert water required for agricultural and household use have protested against the project since 2016 and clashed with authorities on several occasions.

Supporters of the brewery plebiscite yesterday attended the session at which the IEE councilors ruled out the possibility of a vote being held.

They claimed that the council members were pressured into making the decision and suggested that money may have changed hands.

The citizen who presented the plebiscite request, Jesús Filberto Rubio, congratulated Olga Viridiana Maciel Sánchez for being the only councilor not to vote against the consultation, contending that she is the only one who has a brain and didn’t accept money. The other councilors were either bought off or “mentally retarded,” he said.

State politicians and business leaders warned last month that the unprecedented consultation could threaten investment.

Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex) president Gustavo de Hoyos said that if construction of the brewery is blocked, “it would be an irreversible blow to the reputation of Mexico’s production sector” while Baja California Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid said that a referendum would send the wrong message to investors.

Constellation Brands, the third largest beer maker in the United States, has said that the brewery would create around 5,000 jobs and that its use of water – expected to be 1.8 million cubic liters a year – will not affect citizens’ access to water.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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