Mexico licenses Coca Cola to take a huge amount of water from semi-arid Chiapas while ordinary people’s wells run dry. Then Coca Cola sells bottled water to residents. And sells the water for same price as Coca Cola.
Mexico is a deeply crony place. Taking people’s water and then selling it back to them (with a license from the government of course) is pretty low.
While local communities struggle to secure water, for Coca-Cola, there is no shortage of water. The bottling plant opened in 1994, the same year the Zapatista uprising put Chiapas in the global spotlight. While the Zapatistas organized in the mountains surrounding San Cristobal, FEMSA began pumping water from Huitepec mountain. The National Water Commission (Conagua) renewed the permit in 2005, and FEMSA now operates two wells.
In Mexico, lax government regulation, fueled by the revolving door between government and industry, helped FEMSA become Coca-Cola’s most important bottler worldwide. Vicente Fox was president of Coca-Cola FEMSA Mexico before being elected Mexican president in 2000.
FEMSA reports that it uses 56.9 billion liters of water a year in its operations across Latin America. In Mexico, the company holds 40 water permits…
…”Imagine each well is a straw going down into the earth. If the Coca-Cola straw is much longer than the straws the communities have, their wells will eventually run out,” he says. Juan Urbano says the deepest wells in San Felipe are around 25 meters. FEMSA’s wells are 130 meters deep.