EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Mexican farmers have taken over highway toll-collection booths and blocked off access to government buildings in the state of Chihuahua, demanding that the federal government stop taking their water.
The farmers on Thursday took over the highways in Ojinaga, Cuauhtémoc and Saucillo, and on Friday were threatening to take over toll-collection booths in Villa Ahumada, Saucillo and Flores Magon, Diario de Chihuahua reported.
Another group was blocking off access to the state government building in Chihuahua City, demanding a halt to water extraction from the Boquilla, Granero and Las Virgenes dams.
The conflict stems from Mexico’s efforts to pay off its water debt to the United States per a 1944 international treaty. Mexico owes about 415,000 acre-feet (512 million cubic meters) yearly that must be paid by Oct. 24. Payment is made by releasing water from dams in Mexico, but Mexico has fallen badly behind in previous years’ payments.
The farmers say Chihuahua has been unfairly targeted for water extraction.
“Why Chihuahua? Chihuahua is one of the most arid states. There are tributaries (to the Rio Grande) in other states to pay the debt. We want to know how much water they have taken from every dam (in Mexico), but they won’t tell us,” protest leader Salvador Alcantar said on Facebook Live.
A YouTube citizen video posted on Friday shows dozens of tractors blocking off traffic in the state capital, as the farmers urge state government to intervene on their behalf.
In June, a group of farmers blocked off access to the Ojinaga-Presidio, Texas border crossing for several days until hundreds of Mexican National Guard soldiers showed up and told them to leave.
This is a developing story and will be updated as events warrant.