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Party Using Water To Flush Out Votes

Sat., July 5, 1997

Weeks before Sunday’s midterm election, government workers descended on the outskirts of this city to fulfill long-delayed promises of extending the water supply to the poorest sections of town.

The government’s earth movers ripped up the streets to lay water pipes, leaving huge piles of dirt on the sides. Then, about two weeks ago, the work came to a sudden halt, without any explanation.

“This is political blackmail,” said Delfino Gutierrez Becerra, a 73-year-old community organizer.

Government critics say the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is manipulating the water faucet to win votes in a city where the municipal government is in the hands of the opposition center-right National Action Party (PAN).

A sizable part of the city’s 1.5 million population doesn’t have access to drinking water or sewers.

In addition to intimidating undecided voters with subtle threats of paralyzing pipeline construction, the PRI is cutting off the water to neighborhoods controlled by the PAN and channeling water to pro-PRI areas, opposition leaders say.

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