Is water the new drug for Mexico’s cartels?

Source: The New Internationalist

What it’s like when narcos run your privatized water system.

It’s rainy season here in Puebla, Mexico, and water is dripping through my concrete roof, taking chunks of plaster and paint from the ceiling with it. Ironically, we still don’t have enough running water to shower everyday. Other people here have no running water at all, and our drainage system is in a state of utter abandonment.

Yet we all pay 10 times the rates of the rest of Mexico, because here in Puebla – unlike the rest of the country – our water is privatized. What’s more, the men at the helm of the consortium that run it are a collection of corrupt millionaire and billionaire businessmen who have allegedly laundered money for some of the region’s biggest drug cartels.

Throughout much of Mexico large, usually black, tinacos (water tanks) dot the roof tops of our concrete slums and towns. A lot of us have running water for just 15-30 minutes, twice a week, so we fill up the tinacos to cover the rest of the time. Many of the older tanks are made of asbestos, while the newer ones are a solid black plastic. A friend who lives around the corner has only a large container of water in his bathroom, while those in wealthier areas often have underground storage and much more regular water.

Most of us, however, have just 400 litres of water to last the household a week. In the US, a single person consumes that amount per day. In my home, we wash our clothes in a bucket, recycle that water to flush the toilet, collect the water from the shower for flushing, and only flush around once or twice a day. Showers are quick and had every three days or so.

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