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Water. water everywhere… for the corporations

29 June 2013

Via the indispensable Mexico Voices.

I’ve always thought it was one of the better things about Mexico was that water (and access to water) was considered a national security issue… one reason the Army plants trees as part of its regular activities is to safeguard watersheds… and that the reason natural resources were to be managed by the government for the benefit of the people.  Although we haven’t been so degraded yet, the sense that “corporations are people too (just with more rights than you and I) is creeping into our political and social consciousness:

Translated from Jornada (28 June 2013)  by Stuart Taylor

In accordance with Óscar Pimental González, the General Coordinator of the Emergencies and Advice Service in Cuenca – part of the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) –, the federal government intends to promote the intervention of the private initiative in the organizations in charge of the public service’s water supply operation over a six-year period. In the official’s opinion, such a plan is underpinned by the need to adopt corporative practices as a basis for undertaking improvement, professionalization and modernization processes. Its fulfillment would bring such benefits as a cleaning up of the public organizations’ finances, it would offset their dependence on subsidies and it would facilitate the gradual addition of infrastructure, operation and maintenance costs to the prices that users pay for the service.

It is unavoidable to perceive this announcement as part of an integrated project to hand over natural resources and public services to private enterprises – the majority of which are foreign. Similar arguments to those used by the federal official may be employed, that is to say, the supposed technical, operational and financial ineffectiveness of the public organizations in charge of managing such resources and services.

Also fitting in to this context is the national oil industry’s eagerness to privatize – an industry that persists in the current federal administration contrary to the constitutional mandate and the views of the majority of the population – as well as the gradual handover of the electricity industry to transnational companies that, today, generate more than a third of the energy consumed in the country.

In this case, the intention to allow private entry into operation, management and distribution tasks of water resources is especially inappropriate given that those activities are extremely important social, economic and health issues and could even threaten national security.

It is also unavoidable to assume that finalizing the CONAGUA plans would result in similar scenes to those that have come about as a result of other privatization processes throughout the world. Far from contributing to guaranteeing universal access so water, operating with business logic will end up favoring the demand of large consumers (industries with diverse sections) to the detriment of the needs of wide strands of the population, especially those sectors that are disadvantaged, such as rural areas, which in themselves are impoverished due to the chronic abandonment of the field, and the neighbors of the popular colonies who already suffer from a lack of regular water supply.

Furthermore, the historic experience accounts for the risk of political instability that is involved when handing over natural resources to corporations that, in general, are characterized by displaying predatory, abusive behavior that generates social discontent. The water war in Cochabamba is an inescapable; a series of protests held in the Bolivian city between January and April 2000 after the Government’s controversial decision to give the water system of that region to the multinational company Aguas del Tunari for 40 years. The episode ended in a brutal clash with police, causing one death, injuries to 500 people and tens of arrests.

Currently, as we observe a growing international trend in the recognition of having access to water as an essential human right in the civilizing process and in an effort to guarantee the viability of the human race, the intention to give this resource to private parties is unfitting and risky from any point of view. It is hoped that the federal government will realize this and end its attempt to add yet another layer of division and nonconformity to the political and social landscape of this country.

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