Constellation Brands faces next challenge in controversial Mexicali brewery
Constellation Brands is facing renewed challenges over a controversial brewery in Mexicali, Mexico. On Saturday, the Fortune 500 company’s “greenfield” project will face a new test: a public consultation in Mexicali.
The Victor-based company produces wines, liquors, and beers, like Corona. Rumors spread some weeks ago that because of fears of catching the novel coronavirus, fewer people were buying Corona beer. That wasn’t the case after all.
However, since 2017, an activist group called Mexicali Resiste, or “Mexicali Resistance,” has called for a boycott of the company's products like Corona and Modelo beers.
That’s because the company has been working to build a brewery in Mexicali, a border town in the desert region of Baja California, Mexico, that has historically relied on agriculture.
However, the Colorado River -- one of the main sources of fresh water for the region -- has been running drier and drier since 2001.
Jesús Galaz-Duarte with Mexicali Resiste says the brewery will use up precious fresh water in an area that's already water-stressed.
“The commission says that our human rights are being violated,” Galaz-Duarte says. “The National Human Rights Commission has said that, and there’s a document showing that, proving that.”
Michael McGrew with Constellation Brands says that the company has taken extensive measures, including independent environmental analysis, to ensure that there is no risk to the local water supply.
The document Galaz-Duarte is referring to is Recommendation 1/2020 from Blanca Jiménez Cisneros, the director of the national water commission, a division of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), dated Feb. 6.
In it, Jiménez Cisneros states that the CNDH addresses a violation of the human right to water access for the general population and to agriculture in the Mexicali valley due to the “actions and omissions” of an industrial brewery project.
The decision will come down to a public consultation slated for March 21 where the people of Mexicali will choose whether they want the project to continue or not.
McGrew says the company disagrees with the Mexican government’s approach to have a public consultation for a private-sector business investment. In a letter to the Mexican government, Constellation Brands expressed the company’s disagreement.
Galaz-Duarte says water is a human right, and as such, should already be guaranteed.
“Our position is that human rights cannot be negotiated, cannot be put to a vote,” he says.
The consultation comes one day before World Water Day.
Statement from Michael McGrew, Constellation Brands:
“Constellation Brands has gone through extensive lengths, including an independent analysis by environmental experts in Mexico, to ensure our brewery operations in Mexicali will pose no risk to local water supply and availability.
Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring our operations are water neutral by investing in water-saving technology, water conservation measures, and wastewater treatment mechanisms.
In this regard, we hope to serve as a model for other businesses throughout Mexico in implementing water neutral initiatives. We’ve had a positive working relationship with Mexico for more than 30 years and remain committed to ensuring that we operate our business in ways that safeguard natural resources.
In addition to our commitment to environmental stewardship, we are also committed to positively contributing to local economic development and prosperity in Mexicali through the creation of more than 500 jobs for local residents that we hope will translate into long and prosperous careers that benefit our employees and their families.
In total, our operations in Mexicali are projected to contribute more than $500 million (USD) in economic benefit to the Mexicali community.”