Distorting the Referendum for Water as a Human Right

(Translated by Lucas Sanchez, a CSN volunteer translator)

DeVer 521
Bogatá, April 30, 2009

As if by magic masking his interest to remain in power behind his acceptance of the water referendum under the referendum to allow for his own reelection, Alvaro Uribe Velez has not only tainted the initiative to recognize access to water as a human right, but is using the initiative to advance his personal interests.

Since 2007, more than 2 million Colombians have signed a petition supporting a referendum that would guarantee the right to a minimum ration of water, the protection of lands essential to the production of potable water, and more broadly, the vision of water as a basic human right for present and future generations. Despite the wide support, however, the government and the national congress have altered and transformed the initiative into an instrument that will ultimately guarantee water as just another commodity for big business, while restricting access to drinking water in a society already submerged in poverty.
Following is the Committee to Promote the Referendum’s document addressing this situation.

Inter-ecclesiastical Commission for Justice and Peace

April 23, 2009

Yesterday, in a session of Committee I of the House of Representatives, a majority approved a document contrary to the citizen’s initiative supported by more than two million Colombian men and women.

The following substantial modifications were made:

The recognition of access to potable water as a fundamental right was eliminated.

The recognition of water as a public good was eliminated.

The prioritization of the use of ecosystems essential to the water cycle for these ends was eliminated.

The prohibition of the privatization of the management and delivery of water and sewage services was eliminated.

A colossal provision was added: again making it constitutional that “waters that are born and die within private land” are private, therefore imposing an exception to the principle that all water is a resource for public use. Thusly, water rights will be given to the new illegitimate owners of extensive private estates produced through the violent dispossession and displacement of more than four million peasants.

In contrast, the guarantee that waters running through ethnic territories would belong to those territories was eliminated.

In a draconian way, they altered the proposal for a universal free basic water allotment, falsely claiming it to be solely on behalf of the poor but yet within the existing established legal framework for the privatization of public utilities.

The modifications were agreed upon at the Casa de Nariño in a meeting of political factions supporting the government with President Uribe. He, the very same person who had radically opposed our referendum for the human right to water, suddenly changed his position and stated that it should be the people who to decide, but regarding a document entirely different from the one signed by more than two million people.

Faced with this reality, the National Committee in Defense of Water and Life, which promotes the referendum, calls for a continuation of the citizen’s movement to defend the original document.  We must remain alert and monitor the House debate that will make a decision regarding the appeal presented by the spokesperson for the Promoting Committee calling for adherence to the original text.

The Promoting Committee for the referendum thanks the 8 members of Congress from the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) and the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo), and two members of Radical Change (Cambio Radical) who voted in favor of the proposal recommendeding the approval of the referendum in its original form.

This national and regional struggle is moving toward the recognition by the national constitution of water as a public resource and a basic human right; but only united and sustained actions by all will allow these waters to remain free and clear of privatization.   

Promoting Committee of the referendum: Rafael Colmenares (Spokesperson), Oscar Eduardo Gutiérrez, Martha Canon, Javier Marquez, Rodrigo Acosta, Humberto Polo, Héctor Gañan, Tatiana Roa and Cristo Miranda.


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