A religious charity based in the United States claims to be helping the poor, but in reality, Living Water is contributing to a shrinking water supply for Mexico’s indigenous communities.
A report from Open Democracy details a disturbing system of corporate and state privilege and theft of indigenous resources. Journalist Tamara Pearson investigated the situation in Puebla, Mexico, specifically looking at the activities of Coca Cola, the charity Living Water, and non-profit Techo. “Here, people living in the wealthy part of town get all the water they need, and Coca Cola gets first dibs on the best water in the state. Meanwhile, the rest us get running water for half an hour a week, or none at all,” Pearson writes.
Living Water, a U.S. based religious charity that claims to provide the poor with water, currently has 132 projects in the state of Puebla. The projects are the result of the Mexican government encouraging private industry to invest in ownership bodies of water. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi Cruz, VP of Goldman Sachs, are listed in the leadership of Living Water.
Tamara Pearson interviewed Fernando, an indigenous activist from the Nahua community of Cuanala, in northern Puebla, to get a better understanding of the situation. Fernando is part of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and to Peoples Against the Privatization of Water (PUCPA). He tells Pearson that charities like Living Water and Techo “pave the way” for corporations to gain access to indigenous and rural people’s water. Specifically, groups like Techo and Living Water have partnerships with companies like Femsa (Coca Cola) for financing projects in indigenous communities under the pretext of providing water. According to Fernando, once the charities get in the communities, their corporate partners use their influence to steal water.
“Living Water went into indigenous towns like Ocotepec saying things like ‘Jesus says water is for everyone.’ At first, people trusted them, but then they realized the charity has connections to Femsa (Coca Cola) and they protested. There were arrests, and the police stopped the protests,” Fernando told Pearson. “In January the current state government sent the various municipalities (of Puebla state) a document saying that we had to approve an article in the water law that gives the state, and therefore companies as well, control over our water. They gave us a month to respond, and if we didn’t, then we had automatically approved it.”
Fernando also said the government is attempting to shut down the wells that the indigenous communities have built. Pearson also reports that Article 12 of the new water law also makes it illegal to collect your own water via well or rain collection. The law limits communities like Fernando’s to 20 liters of water per person per day. This supply is not enough to drink, water crops, and care for animals.
Even worse, Pearson was able to document the glaring inequality and double standard between the indigenous and rural communities and the wealthier cities. Fernando told Pearson that the wealthy living in the cities do not face the same water restrictions as the indigenous.
“Unlike where the rest of us live – where we get 30 minutes of water a week, if we’re lucky, and so we store that water in tanks on our roofs – in Angelopolis there are no tanks,” Pearson reports. “They have unlimited water, doing things the rest of us wouldn’t dream of, like filling their swimming pools, hosing down their patios and foot paths, and washing their pets regularly with a hose.”
The report also notes that Coca Cola continues to extract water from the sides of the Huitepec volcano in Chiapas. This water is taken away from the local indigenous communities and sold elsewhere for a high profit.
Fernando told Pearson that the fight for water security is a part of a larger struggle for land security. “We don’t waste water by washing it down the drains. We recycle it. The fight for water is a fight for life. You can’t separate water from land issues and struggles, from the economy, and from conflict and peace and justice,” he said.
The situation in Mexico has the appearance of yet another example of private industry using influence to screw over the people. However, on closer examination we can see that it was the state which first passed a law to give these charities and corporations the legal path for seizing local water supplies. At the end of the day, the people are opposed by an octopus with many tentacles. The corporations and the State work together to fleece the people, but without the corrupt politicians and government officials, the corporations would not be able to wield such power. We must decentralize and unplug from these systems and focus our efforts on building local community reliance. If I was you I would start here.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com
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