Saturday, December 2, 2023

Feds’ green light to brewery triggers renewed protest in Baja California

Opponents of a brewery that is being built in Mexicali, Baja California, have taken to the streets again after the federal government justified the project’s continued construction.

Farmers in the area have protested the construction of the US $1.5-billion brewery since 2016, claiming that its production will put a strain on the state’s water supply and fighting various legal battles to halt the project.

International beverage company Constellation Brands has claimed that there will be enough water for farmers, citizens and the one billion liters of beverages it plans to produce annually.

Federal Environment Secretary Víctor Toledo assured federal authorities that the brewery would not affect the region’s water supply at a heavily guarded meeting held at a private university in Mexicali on January 17.

Around 500 people belonging to some 30 community and environmental collectives from across the state gathered in Mexicali on the weekend to express their opposition to the project and denounce government officials for what they called a betrayal of the public.

Among the protesters was Eleutorio Suárez Aviña, coordinator of the Binational Indigenous Front, which has fought for causes of concern to indigenous people in the region for 26 years.

“We’ve joined the protest because it affects us … It’s a lie [that there is enough water]. They also contradict themselves. They say there’s water, but they want to build a desalination plant, then they say there’s enough water. Who’s telling the truth?” he said.

Another protester, Iván Martínez Zazueta, said the opponents are looking into various courses of action, such as calling for a public referendum on the project through the state’s Citizen Participation Law or directly petitioning President López Obrador.

“It’s a double-edged sword, but we’re going to look into it,” he said. “There will also be a protest on March 22, World Water Day.”

“And as a third action, we are going to create a truly public technical academic forum, not like the one headed by Toledo in a private university surrounded by police because they’re afraid to let the public hear. Constellation will be invited,” he added.

A decision by state electoral authorities to allow a referendum on the project was challenged by the company in December 2018.

After state politicians and business leaders warned that the plebiscite could threaten future international investment in Mexico, state electoral authorities reversed the decision to allow the vote in March of last year.

Local collective member Alma Araceli Piña called the protest a reaction to Toledo’s January 17 meeting and claimed that Constellation Brands had taken retaliatory actions against opponents of the brewery.

“This is a definitive reactivation [of the resistance]. The [movement] had the wind in its sails, but in the days following [Toledo’s] infamous forum there was an illegitimate campaign against this march … a campaign by Constellation Brands,” she said.

“We’re working through legal means … but we will not take even a half step back.”

Source: Reforma (sp)

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