Featured image: Protests against the main bottling company in Uruguay. Source: El siglo web
Since last June, Uruguay has been going through a water emergency due to the scarcity of available water. Water resources have drastically diminished, leaving the country with virtually no potable water reserves. The state government is unable to find an effective solution to alleviate the effects of water scarcity. So dire has the situation been that the people are drinking fresh water mixed with salt water by order of the authorities, who have mixed the few remaining supplies with sea water.
Among the proposals made by the state government are to eliminating taxes on bottled water, distributing two liters of water to 21,000 poor families and building a reservoir in 30 days. All these measures have proven useless and the people have not seen their situation improve during the entire time that this crisis has been occurring. The Government also recommends drinking bottled water, but this is a luxury not for everyone. Because of this reason, on July 8 there were massive protests over the high profits of the bottling companies in the midst of the crisis in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The protesters denounced that the company is allowed to extract 3.8 million liters of water and they have never paid for it. In addition, they denounce that with the drop in the VAT, sales increase without affecting the company’s profits, only losing public money that they will later take from education, health or housing.
While the people do not have access to water, as denounced by the National Commission for the Defense of Water and Life, 80% of the water is destined for big landowners in the industry specializing in soybeans or wood pulp. Almost all of these materials are exported abroad and the Uruguayan people see nothing but the drought that they leave behind.
In addition to the big landowners, large monopolistic companies do not abandon their mega-projects in the country. The technology company Google has just bought 29 hectares in the department of Canelones to build a macro data center. This center will use 7.6 million liters of water per day to cool its servers. This water will come directly from the public drinking water system. This is equivalent to the daily domestic use of 55,000 people. This is not the only mega-project, for example, in April the world’s largest pulp mill began operating. This plant, run by the foreign company UPM, uses 129.6 million liters of water per day and discharges the waste into a local river.
Regarding this situation, the newspaper A Nova Democracia denounces the looting of natural wealth by landowners and the system that supports it: “The worsening of the crisis occurred after these cosmetic measures and are proof of the ineffectiveness of these protocols, typical of political juggling that does not want to touch the heart of a problem. Regardless of the severity of the drought, the true origin of the ills of the Uruguayan people, among them the constant water crises, has been known since Artigas. It lies in the blatant plundering of Uruguay’s natural wealth and strategic resources by imperialism’s servile landlordism and by the monopoly companies of the local big bourgeoisie or foreign capital, problems that are evident in any country that was orphaned by a Democratic, Agrarian and Anti-Imperialist Revolution. The solution, therefore, involves the end of the land ownership system and the expulsion of looters from the Nation”.