Angered over water dispute, Mexican farmers shut down Texas border crossing


Protest stems from Mexican government allegedly diverting Chihuahua water to Tamaulipas; soldiers reported to be removing demonstrators today

Mexican farmers shut down the Presidio-Ojinaga border crossing and torched at least one vehicle during a protest over water rights Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Ojinaga, Mexico. (Courtesy El Sol de Ojinaga)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Tension is high south of Presidio, Texas, where Mexican farmers blocked access to a port of entry into the United States.

The blockades to vehicle traffic on the Presidio-Ojinaga border crossing had been going on and off since late Saturday, the office of Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said. But soldiers and police lifted the blockade Wednesday morning, El Sol de Ojinaga reported.

The issue is whether the Mexican government will give farmers a full quota of water from the Conchos River this year or divert some of it to other states. The Conchos is a key tributary to the Rio Grande, and a lot of its water already goes to fulfill Mexico’s obligation to the United States under an international water treaty.

The farmers on Tuesday surrounded a building and angrily overturned the truck of a federal government representative from Juarez who came to talk to Ojinaga officials. A Mexican website published citizen video of an angry mob flipping a white pickup onto its roof.

Citizen video of farmers overturning vehicle of federal official who came to Ojinaga, Mexico to mediate a water dispute.

Ojinaga police officers had to escort the official, Juan Carlos Loera, out of the building and out of the town as the farmers hurled insults at him, reported. Later, the mob burned another vehicle near the town square.

“Chihuahua provides more than 50% of the water for the treaty, but they want us to provide more because of poor handling of (water in) the dams and the mistakes from several years from (the Mexican Water Authority). We have said, take the water for the treaty, but not (to give to) other states,” Corral said in a teleconference.

The blockade cut off all passenger and vehicle traffic to Presidio for three days. “They let a few people walk back and forth but we’re pretty much shut off from Mexico,” said Brad Newton, executive director for Presidio Municipal Development District.

He said traffic between Presidio and Ojinaga was already low because of COVID-19 international travel restrictions.

“It’s not very noticeable in terms of the every day Joe going over to buy groceries or something. I think the biggest thing is all of our agricultural imports are shut down,” Newton said.

Corral said state officials were monitoring the situation and offering mediation between the federal government and the farmers, who believe water from the El Granero dam is on its way to farmers in the state of Tamaulipas. The federal government this morning agreed to temporarily close the dam to allow a dialogue with Chihuahua farmers to continue.

On the U.S. side, Newton said he understands why the water issue is raising tempers south of the border.

“Mark Twain used to say, ‘Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,'” the former Pecos River commissioner said.

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