The power that makes pitchers overflow and rivers flood their banks

By Erasto Reyes, an organiser, lawyer and member of Bloque Popular, a national mobilising organisation in Honduras.

Extracts from ‘Changing the Flow: Water Movements in Latin America’, a report by Food and Water Watch, Red Vida, Transnational Institute, The RPR Network and Other Worlds, 2009.

We have been working on water since 2000, when we began our struggle against the privatisation of public services – energy and telecommunications. But water has been our greatest focus. Water ignited our struggles in Latin America: the struggles of the Bolivians, the Argentineans, the Uruguayans; the proposals that come out of Venezuela, the experiences in Brazil. These struggles have filled us with hope, and they are why there has been growing popular mobilisation throughout Central America.

… When Central America makes the news, it’s for serious and nasty issues like drug trafficking or natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch. But it doesn’t appear, for example, when in countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, people are reclaiming the human right to water.

In Central America, we have serious problems with sanitation and water supply. Honduras is one of the countries with the largest water reserves in Central America, but the state has no policies to ensure access to water and sanitation. … Water, from our point of view, is a heritage of humanity just like land.

Water is linked to land, and also linked to health. … You could say that the water wars of South America have arrived at our doorstep. The water war in Bolivia gave us a profound conviction to fight water privatisation. We have gone beyond simply protesting in the streets and are developing alternative proposals to meet the needs of our people. We are expanding the spaces where people can participate politically. … This has allowed the social movement fighting for water to cross borders, to move beyond the limits of our villages and towns. We are seeing this in the determined efforts of every country in South America, in Central America and Mexico, and – why not mention it? – in the United States and other countries as well. The people have governments but, until now, with only a few exceptions, the people do not have power. …

What a law says, what a decree says, what the UN says, or what divine grace says, is not enough. We have to make water a human right. …