Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

'Stop stealing our water'


Attacked in the street by strangers. Death threats over the phone. Dragged through court over bogus legal challenges.

These are just some of the challenges faced by Rodrigo Mundaca. All because he fights for one basic need.


Rodrigo’s home country of Chile is the only place in the world where access to water has been privatised. The result is that rivers are literally drying up, leaving people dangerously thirsty, thanks to water supplies being drained to feed huge corporate–owned farms.

The brave activists defending Chile’s water

Rodrigo is a spokesperson for a group called MODATIMA – a water rights organisation working out of his home province of Petorca in central Chile, which is one of the worst affected areas of the country.

He told us:

‘There are colleagues that don’t go out into the street because they’re afraid. All of those that have been on the front lines against water theft have suffered from these situations.’

They have good reason to be scared.

In March 2015, unidentified men attacked Rodrigo from behind, and in March 2017 his life was threatened when he answered the phone to an unknown voice screaming:

‘We are going to kill you motherf***er, we will kill you!’

The authorities have filed four criminal cases against him, all in relation to his human rights work. One of these cases resulted in a sentence of 61 days in prison, suspended under the condition that he would present himself to Chilean police once a month for a year.

Corporate drought

Big corporations are literally sucking the life out of Chile.

The avocado industry is particularly to blame. This fruit has enjoyed a huge surge of popularity in recent years and Chile is one of the top 10 largest exporters of avocados in the world.

The issue is that to grow just one pound of avocados in Chile uses on average 80 gallons of water – that’s the equivalent of 484 bottles of wine! To feed this immense thirst in an already dry climate, water is drained from groundwater and rivers, stored in reservoirs for private use only.

Chile’s ‘Water Code’ of 1981 grants the use of water to private companies at no cost to them, forever. Meanwhile, Chile’s people must pay for any water they wish to use, forcing them to severely limit their water use. Rodrigo says some people in his town will only ever take sponge baths – and some even defecate in plastic bags to save water.

This is a grave violation of the Chilean peoples right to water and to a healthy environment – it cannot continue.