Water debt: why did an old pact with the US unleash a conflict in Mexico?

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez

Mexico is experiencing a conflict over water in the border state of Chihuahua (north), where farmers seized a dam to prevent the country from continuing to supply the United States as stipulated in a 1944 agreement.

The protests leave one dead and damage a hydroelectric plant, while the pressure increases for Mexico to pay off a debt in the supply.

The two countries, who share 3,170 km from the border, they supply each other.

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

What’s going on?

Peasants occupy the dam La Boquilla from September 8, claiming that deliveries to the neighboring country threaten their crops for a atypical drought.

With stones and sticks, the protesters forced the withdrawal of the military guarding the facility.

Hours later, after the arrest of three people who stole weapons and grenades from uniformed soldiers, an incident occurred in which one of them shot a couple who had participated in the shooting, according to the official version. The woman died.

07/20/2020 The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador CENTRAL AMERICAN POLITICS MEXICO PRESIDENCY OF MEXICO

07/20/2020 The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador CENTRAL AMERICAN POLITICS MEXICO PRESIDENCY OF MEXICO

The commander of the National Guard, Luis Rodríguez, said it was an “unfortunate accident” for which 17 officers were detained.

The government reported damage to the hydroelectric plant for 4.7 million dollars.

What does the agreement consist of?

It was signed in 1944 and requires the United States to deliver annually 1.85 billion cubic meters of water from the Colorado River, and to Mexico 432 million cubic meters from the Rio Grande.

To cover your part, Mexico has a period of five years that can be extended for five more. But he accumulated a debt of 426 million cubic meters, whose final term expires on October 24.

Javier Corral (Photo: EFE / File)

Javier Corral (Photo: EFE / File)

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, ensures that the country He has already paid 82% and that the obligation will be paid on time.

The agreement is “indefinite”, and if it wanted, the Mexican government could renegotiate it with authorization from the SenateGonzalo Hatch Kuri, geographer and researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, explained to AFP.

But López Obrador rules out that possibility. “I don’t think there is a better agreement”, dice.

What happens if Mexico defaults?

Although the Mexican president has warned that Washington could raise tariffs if the agreement is breached, Hatch Kuri rules out retaliation.

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

“The United States has never waged war on us for not paying it (for water) and there have been five years that the quota has not been covered. It has not gone beyond diplomatic friction ”, points out.

But Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to intercede so that Mexico comply.

Mexico needs to end this cycle without debt (…), ended the last cycle, as well as several previous ones, with a debt. This trend cannot continue ”, Abbott wrote to Pompeo on September 15.

“Let’s accomplish”, López Obrador responded.

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

With Donald Trump seeking re-election, Hatch Kuri does not exclude that water could become a campaign issue.

“López Obrador has wanted to have a respectful and least tense relationship with Trump, which is why he wants to pay whatever it takes”, aim.

What do the parties say?

The president claims that Mexican producers they have guaranteed water for the agricultural cycle that ends in October.

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez / Archive

But the farmers, backed by the opposition governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, they denounce that removing the water from the dams puts the next cycle at risk due to the drought in that state, that this year registers temperatures of 45 degrees centigrade.

Faced with a hypothetical shortage in Chihuahua, López Obrador has said that he is willing to talk with Trump to make the deal more flexible.

But he criticizes that even so the protesters, who according to him are encouraged by large producers and opponents of the government, are intransigent and opted for “demagoguery.” In his opinion, this reveals interests facing the legislative and governor’s elections of 2021.

For its part, Corral accuses the government of hindering a solution.

With information from AFP

MORE ON THIS TOPIC:

Texas requires Mexico to pay for the water it owes; AMLO denounces internal political boycott

The FIU froze the accounts of politicians in Chihuahua: who are they and how are they related to the taking of “La Boquilla”

Conagua warned water reduction in Chihuahua due to vandalism at La Boquilla dam

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