A March 21-22 referendum in Mexicali, Mexico has determined that a partly-built $1.5 Billion USD brewery will not proceed as planned. Communities and farmers have engaged in resistance the controversial US brewers Constellation Brands plant in the north of the country since 2016 on the basis that the demands of the brewery will further strain already scarce regional water resources. In 2018, activists called for beer boycotts, blocked delivery of equipment to the construction site and clashed with security forces. Corona Extra, a Contellation brand, is the most successful Mexican exported beer.
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It is estimated that at peak production, the facility would have used approximately 25 percent of local water reserves, in an already over-exploited aquifer on the border of Mexico and the United States.
Mexico’s national human rights commission warned earlier this year that the Mexicali brewery risked violating the right to water and highlighted irregularities in the permitting process, while local water experts claimed that it would have used more water than all the remaining industrial in the entire Mexicali region.
When announcing the referendum, Mexico President Lopez Obrador said: “We have to find a balance. The health of the people comes first, we can’t leave people without water. If there are other options for water for the people and water for the company, they can go ahead; if not, it can’t be done. This is the criterion, but both can be done when we look for options".
Mexico's government has reported that 76 percent voted against the plant in the Mexicali area, with 23 percent in favour, with about 36,781 votes cast.
The referendum has been criticised for the speed with which it was called and for a low turn-out of about four percent of eligible voters. "A handful of people can’t decide investments of billions of dollars,” the Mexican Employers Federation said in a statement. “The results of the referendum are bad for the beer company and damaging to the country’s economy, but they will be even worse for the residents of Mexicali, who will see the jobs and development they had evaporate". It is anticipated that the owner, Constellation Brands will appeal the decision under investor protection provisions in a free trade treaty with the United States.