Fighting Everywhere over Drinking Water

6 de mayo Organizing CommitteeSan Pedro Sula It has rained three straight days virtually non-stop in San Pedro Sula. Water is standing on many streets in huge ponds in the colonias, as cars, bikes, and pedestrians try to navigate the deep ruts for a path home or to work. Unfortunately the situation is literally “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!”

Meeting with an organizing committee during the rainstorm on Sunday in Colonia 6 de Mayo, the issue they repeated over and over was their frustration at having no potable water in their sector of the barrio. Early settlers had dug a few wells, but these were closed and for 15 years families that now added up to over 1000 people had been vainly pleading with the municipality to provide potable water. The river was not that far away, perhaps 10 kilometers, but unfiltered and therefore undrinkable. Within a few blocks were huge pipes fenced in behind a sign saying Agua San Pedro, but still no water for Col. 6 de Mayo, which meant buying water litre after liter at what residents said were escalating prices as well. If they could drink promises, they would be more than full, but that is all they had been served. After animated discussion around the table with ACORN Honduras – San Pedro Sula head organizer, Luis Martinez, an agreement was finally reached on a strategy and tactics. A grand reunion or meeting was planned for the 6th of March to mobilize all of the residents, circulate petitions of support, and force the officials to attend to finally commit to a plan. If that did not work, then in the next steps, people were committed to “go all Cairo” on the authorities.

In some ways this discussion was not a surprise. In the leadership meeting the day before in San Pedro Sula, delegates from the ACORN Honduras chapters in Cholomo had also talked constantly about water, and it had nothing to do with the pouring rain, but the efforts by the Mayor of Cholomo to privatize the water with an outside company and the rising rates people were already paying. There the details were not transparent yet on the exact name of the company, its scope, and its relationship to the powers that be in Cholomo. The only thing the leaders knew for certain was that the project was being pushed and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, an arm of the United States based in Washington, D.C. Given ACORN Peru’s many years of fights against privatization with our companeros in FENTAP, the water workers’ union of Peru, this was a battle where we knew the field and many of the combatants. Unfortunately we did not know whether or not we were too late, and the endless rain might prevent another meeting to get the details on this trip.

Fortunately, Luis has recruited his own “intern army,” as I call it with four volunteers from the University helping him and another couple of his companeros committed to lending their hands, cars, and anything else to make the organizing work. The core capacity and leadership is coming together in San Pedro Sula for Honduras ACORN, and it will take more than a lot of rain to stop the members from organizing aggressively to win their basic needs. Water is at the top of the list for us in the colonias.

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