MEXICO CITY (AP) – Farmers in the northern state of Chihuahua on Thursday set fire to vehicles and blocked roads in protest of the transfer of water from a Mexican dam to pay for the liquid owed to the United States.
A video posted by activists shows a closed highway and two overturned and burning pickup trucks at an intersection. In another video, protesters towed an armored vehicle after police apparently abandoned it.
In other videos, protesters protest at the La Boquilla dam, where the gates were opened.
Javier Corral, governor of Chihuahua, asked the federal government to stop the water transfer. The secretary general of the state government, Luis Fernando Mesta, expressed fear that the state’s agricultural producers will run out of enough liquid, although he also asked for moderation from the protesters.
“The governor supports the farmers, because these measures cannot be passed, but a call is made to civility and to stop burning federal government units and not to block the roads,” said the official.
Other officials warned that opening the dam gates could cause flooding in downstream communities.
The National Water Commission of Mexico (Conagua) indicated that it opened the dam gates on Wednesday to fulfill the country’s commitment to the 1944 Water Treaty signed with the United States and to provide drinking water to border communities.
Under the treaty, Mexico and the United States allow cross-border flows of water between them, although the Latin American country has fallen far behind in payments and now has to catch up quickly.
By Thursday night, Conagua apparently reversed its decision due to the protests.
“Given the lack of acceptance of agricultural users in Chihuahua to comply with the 1944 International Water Treaty and in view of the adverse social environment, Conagua decided to return the flow of water from the La Boquilla dam to its normal level,” said the commission on your Twitter account.
Chihuahua had said that the water should be delivered to local farmers with the expectation that the heavy summer rains would fill the dams enough to pay for the liquid to the United States. Mexico has long used this strategy, although it has led to problems.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that there is enough water for both the national field producers and to pay the liquid owed to the United States.
“We do not want an international conflict,” said the president in early February. “The agreements are fulfilled. If we have signed a treaty, we have to comply ”.
According to the International Boundary and Water Commission between Mexico and the United States, which oversees compliance with the treaty, Mexico is obliged to deliver to the northern country around 2,158.6 million cubic meters (1.75 million acre-feet) each five years. The United States, in return, provides its neighbor with even more water from other sources more distant to the west.
In the current five-year cycle, Mexico has made the corresponding payments from 2015 to 2017. But since López Obrador assumed the presidency on December 1, 2018, the country has delivered less water than it was supposed to give.
As of January, Mexico was 589.6 million cubic meters (478,000 acre-feet) below meeting its commitment, and must deliver that amount no later than October, when the current five-year cycle ends.
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