By RICARDO CASTILLO
As hundreds of Texas farmers along the Rio Grande border are feeling jittery about the water owed to them by Mexico, the brawl at the very source of the tensions, La Boquilla reservoir in Chihuahua, continues to grow.
The expected flow of what the Texans consider to be their water is being stalled on the Mexican side by Chihuahua farmers who insist that the water is theirs.
The Chihuahua farmers’ continued occupation of La Boquilla dam, with the full support from Governor Javier Corral Jurado and the state Congress, is keeping Mexico from paying its water debt as prescribed in a 1944 binational treaty.
The problem is that, for the second time in a row, Mexico is not complying the treaty’s ruling regarding water sharing of the Rio Grande by Texas, on the northern side, and the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas on the Mexican side.
Chihuahua is not only the main source of water pouring into the Rio Grande, but it also the root of a political partisan rebellion against governing Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who is, in the end, responsible for seeing that Mexico complies fully with the water treaty since La Boquilla is a federal facility under the Mexican Constitution, not a state facility.
In case you have not followed the news on the issue, on Sept. 8, a group of Chihuahua farmers stormed La Boquilla. There was a skirmish between them and the government’s National Guard (GN). The GN withdrew to prevent the use of harsh violence against the farmers.
Two things happened during the skirmish: A small group of three farmers broke into the National Guard’s nearby armory stealing weapons, hand grenades and teargas canisters. The farmers threatened to use the grenades against the GN, but the guardsmen managed to overpower the farmers and arrest them.
As they drove the prisoners to the city of Delicias, the National Guardsmen were followed by a convoy of four pickups. One of the pickups allegedly broadsided a GN vehicle in an attempt to free the prisoners. A guardsman fired at the ramming. vehicle killing a woman and wounding the driver, who was immediately taken to a hospital, where he is still in a coma.
On Friday, Sept. 18, the three arrestees were arraigned for trial for the illegal possession of weapons.
At the same time, 13 members of the National Guard were summoned by the GN’s internal affairs committee to answer for the death of Jessica Silva and the wounding of her husband Jaime Torres, both local pecan growers.
Also on Sept. 18, at AMLO’s daily press conference at the National Palace, National Guard Director Luis Rodríguez Bucio called the event “a lamentable accident” that was the result of confusion because the guardsmen on the scene claim they heard shots being fired “from somewhere.”
This incident, nevertheless, has only added fuel to the ongoing political fire. The protesters suddenly found the martyrs they needed and increased their onslaught to save “Chihuagua” from the “invasion” by the federal government and increase their defense of the La Boquilla reservoir, which the government has said is at a good level currently.
After this unfortunate incident, the Chihuahua State Congress moved its sessions to the reservoir, where local legislators are still holding debate as you read this.
With the farmers occupying the main water gate and the Chihuahua Congress safeguarding them from the nearby presence of the National Guard, arguments for and against the water payment are flying back and forth.
Just last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Mike Pompeo asking him to intervene in the affair and force Mexico to deliver the water stored in the reservoirs into the Rio Grande down flow for Texas farmers to use it.
Almost immediately, Chihuahua Governor Corral Jurado said he was in full agreement with Abbott and that Mexico should use the water in the Amistad and Falcon dams to fill the quota, preserving untouched the water at La Boquilla.
There is only one problem with Corral’s proposal. As it happens. the La Boquilla is now the main source of water for the Río Grande River. In addition, there is no farming from the Ojinaga-Presidio border where the feeding Conchos River connects with the Grande, down all the way to the Acuña-Del Rio border.
The mountainous – and desertous – 400 miles in between are hardly inhabited and not suitable for productive agriculture.
Needless to say, the political battle between the state and federal governments in Mexico rages on. The delegate for Development Programs of the federal government Juan Carlos Loera, who is negotiating the water release, called upon the farmers of Chihuahua to cooperate because “behind these actions and mobilizations there are political and electioneering interest which, with an expression of clear political opportunism, have thrived with this situation and manipulated with deceit a group of farmers.”
AMLO himself keeps saying, “Mexico will pay its water debt” to the United States even if that means having to request that Mexican farmers at the border contribute with what is stipulated in the 1944 Water Treaty.
In the United States, the International Boundary Commissioner Sally Spener wrote a letter the Mexican government urging it to continue a much-delayed compliance with the treaty, which was already postoponed in 2014.
Spener said that Mexico is “running out of time.”
“It may not end two, consecutive five-year-cycles with a debt,” she said. “That is not the way international agreements work. So Mexico does need to end the current cycle without a debt.”
According to Spener, the commission is not considering granting a treaty renegotiation that some Chihuahua politicians are calling for.
The deadline for the water release is Oct. 24. About the only excuse the Chihuahua people would have for withholding the water release from La Boquilla reservoir is drought, which is obviously not happening.
The clock is ticking!
…Sept. 22, 2020