Peruvians protest against water privatization

Protesters are demanding the abolition of a decree that seeks to privatize water services in Lima and Callao

September 28, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Thousands of citizens mobilized against water privatization in Lima, Peru, on September 26. (Photo: Peru 21/Yvonne Bances)

On September 26, thousands of workers and citizens took to the streets in the Peruvian capital Lima to protest against the privatization of water and sanitation services in the city. The protesters peacefully marched through various main avenues of the city to the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation, demanding the abolition of Supreme Decree no. 214-2019-EF.

Protesters chanted “Water is not a business”, “Water is a right. No to its privatization”, “Water is a right, not a privilege”, and others throughout the mobilization.

Said decree seeks to privatize the state-owned water and sanitation company, Potable Water and Sanitation Service of Lima (SEDAPAL), which provides services to the cities of Lima and Callao. It was passed by the right-wing government of President Martín Vizcarra in July of this year.

The call for the demonstration was given by the Union of SEDAPAL’s Workers (SUTESAL) last month with the slogan of “Water is not for sale, Sedapal is be defended”.

Luisa Eyzaguirre, general secretary of SUTESAL, explained that the decree establishes that “all the shares of state owned companies can be sold, which include SEDAPAL”. She stressed that water services “should not be privatized because it is a right”.

“Unfortunately we still have more than 700,000 people who do not have access to water in Lima and Callao. And almost 10 million people nationwide who don’t have this resource. A private company will never operate in areas that are not profitable for it and it is precisely these areas that could not afford a higher price service. Sedapal offers services to 355 million users. In the last 4 years, it has paid more than 500 million Peruvian Sols as taxes, so it is a profitable company with aspects to improve. (…) In any privatization process, what the state and business groups do, is weaken the image of public companies,” she added.

Housing Minister Miguel Estrada also admitted that “the law allows it, but it’s not on the agenda.” “This Government is not planning to privatize Sedapal as it is a public right and is our commitment to provide this service to the population. We are investing in this ministry to expand coverage in the Metropolitan city of Lima,” he said.

“Mr. President, you said that you are not going to privatize it, so keep your word and revoke the Supreme Decree No. 214,” demanded trade union leader Luisa Eyzaguirre.