(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s oldest winemaker Casa Madero said Friday a group of people wielding machetes, angered by water scarcity, invaded its vineyard in the northern state of Coahuila this week.
The men threatened to kill members of Casa Madero’s security team on Wednesday evening and only left 24 hours later, when they heard state law enforcement was coming, threatening to come back the next day, the 425-year-old company’s manager Brandon Milmo told Imagen Radio. It’s unclear who the attackers were. Casa Madero didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.
“We told our security personnel that we didn’t want a tragedy to happen, so they entered with machetes, broke fences and took possession of our water distribution network,” Milmo told the radio station.
Tensions have been bubbling in the region for a decade before overflowing this week, Milmo said. In 2019 thousands of people took to the streets in nearby town Parras de la Fuente to protest the potential sale of more than 40 million cubic meters of its water to a company called Aguas de Saltillo. The Parras Valley is home to several vineyards and is one of Mexico’s most famous wine regions.
A member of the town’s advocacy group Committee For the Defense of the Water told Milenio newspaper in February some irrigation canals had fallen to 35% to 40% capacity. Locals argue they own the right to the water thanks to a presidential decree from the 1930s.
Milmo said the company, which draws on Parras’s water, has all the correct permits and has reduced its consumption from 1,000 liters per second to around 300 to 400 liters per second, to comply with a regulation that says everyone should cut their usage when water supply falls. He said that in talks with the government, civil society groups and other businesses that have heavy water usage, Casa Madero has also proposed measures like reforestation and modernizing distribution networks.
“These waters have irrigated our vines for centuries and if they take away our water completely, we’ll lose the crop this year and the whole vineyard will die,” Milmo said.
As of May 15, 57% of Mexico was experiencing drought conditions. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem: The Mexican government says it could cut the country’s rainfall by 10% to 20% between 2015 and 2039. Swaths of Mexico are in a regular state of crisis over access to water. Parts of Mexico City don’t have regular running water, while President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador canceled a billion-dollar Constellation Brands brewery in border town Mexicali in 2020 after locals said it would endanger water supplies.
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