Tension escalates in Chihuahua over water control

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A hundred farmers in Chihuahua maintain control of the La Boquilla dam in demand of the water supply to face the severe drought that affects this region of northern Mexico. The farmers denounced that on Thursday night they suffered power cuts as pressure to leave the dam, meanwhile, the National Guard keeps its forces deployed in the region to regain control of the station, a measure that has been justified by the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The president pointed out this Friday during his morning conference that producers are manipulated by opposition politicians and economic groups interested in controlling the water in this area to maintain their extensive walnut and alfalfa farms. “We are talking about very prosperous farmers, companies, a clear association between the economic and the political. They are vested interests, “said the president this morning.

The water from La Boquilla is strategic in Mexico’s relations with the United States after the signing of an international treaty in 1944 – which Mexico ratified a year later – which establishes a distribution between both countries of the water from the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. . Under this agreement, the United States commits to deliver 1.8 billion cubic meters of water from the Colorado River to Mexico every year, while the Mexican government must give 2.2 billion cubic meters of the Rio Grande every five years. La Boquilla, which is part of the 813 dams managed by the National Water Commission (Conagua) throughout the country, was built on the bed of the Conchos River – a tributary of the Rio Bravo – and is one of the main water systems in the north of Mexico. The Mexican authorities have until October 25 as the deadline to deliver the water that the United States must receive, for which they have warned of possible economic sanctions if they do not comply with the agreement.

“This treaty has been in force for 76 years. Water belongs to both countries and a way had to be found on how it should be used. It is the first treaty of its kind in the world that establishes principles of equity. Mexico receives four times more water than it contributes and has flexibility in the delivery ”, explained this morning Blanca Jiménez, director of Conagua, in the morning conference of President López Obrador. Farmers stationed at the dam fear that if Mexico sends water to the United States, their crops could be affected by the drought that has hit the region for months, but Conagua authorities affirm that the supply for agriculture is guaranteed, although they denounce that due to the taking of La Boquilla the flow in that area of ​​the State has stopped.

The producers affirm that they will not deliver the dam until the water supply is guaranteed and they fear that there will be a new offensive on the part of the military, who since Wednesday arrived in the area from the neighboring state of Coahuila and remain in the Las dam. Stacks, adjacent to La Boquilla.

The president has openly accused the governor of Chihuahua, the conservative Javier Corral (of the opposition National Action Party, PAN) of manipulating producers. Corral yesterday called on the president for the government to negotiate with the producers an agreement that would allow the dam to be released, but also criticized the sending of the National Guard to the region. “There is no need for them to have the National Guard in the Chihuahua dams. That presence is what has created a lot of tension. Let him lend it to us to face crime in Ciudad Juárez, ”said the governor with derision. The president today justified the presence of the military and stated that “the dams are strategic facilities of the State.”

“Now they appear as champions of sovereignty. Now this rebellion occurs. It is about interests, about corruption, that unites them. The municipal authorities feel that they are the owners of the water, but the water, in accordance with the Constitution, belongs to everyone, ”said the president. López Obrador has also signaled the powerful walnut and alfalfa producers (a crop used to feed livestock and guarantee milk production) to instigate the taking of the dam to guarantee water for their crops. “They have taken over the water in various regions of the country through associations controlled by the most powerful farmers, with the most influence. There is a close relationship between those who manage water and the authorities ”, he stated.

The crisis in La Boquilla began on Monday, when hundreds of farmers armed with bats and their peasant tools seized the dam, but it worsened on Tuesday night, when members of the National Guard tried to disperse the producers. That night there was a confrontation with the officers of the National Guard, which left at least two dead and several wounded, including five soldiers. The agency reported Thursday that 17 of its members were detained and handed over to the Chihuahua prosecutor’s office. “The National Guard has maintained close cooperation with the Chihuahua prosecutor’s office and the Mexican prosecutor’s office to clarify the facts,” the institution reported in a statement. Yesterday, the president, who lamented the death of the producers, also justified the military action. “The Guard acted very well because, first, there were many more protesters, and they, even though they had weapons, decided not to use them,” he said.

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