President López Obrador blamed corruption in the judicial system for a delay in a water project in Durango and Coahuila while speaking Sunday in Lerdo, Durango.
Pro Defensa del Nazas, an environmental group, filed a suspension order against construction of the project in the natural protected area of Canyon de Fernández State Park. A district judge gave temporary approval to the suspension on May 27 and a final decision on the project’s cancellation will be delivered by the court on August 23, according to the newspaper Milenio.
The judge’s action triggered a new attack on the judiciary by the president, who said the judicial system could not be trusted. “Do you think I’m going to trust in the judiciary? I’m not sucking my thumb,” said the president, meaning he wasn’t born yesterday. “Disgracefully the judiciary is rotten, there are honorable exceptions but judges, magistrates and ministers are serving groups with vested interests, which have a very conservative, ultraconservative mentality,” he said.
“If we had a reliable judiciary, I would say ‘no problem, we’ll go to litigation, we are going to show that there is no damage’ [from the water project] but … [litigation] is a delaying tactic and the work is not getting done,” he added.
Pro Defensa del Nazas member Rodrigo Meza said the law should be respected. “The president must be the example that the laws are complied with. The case is being filed because they violated some laws and regulations,” he said.
At the Sunday event, the president argued the project’s completion was a matter of public health. “It is harmful, it is very irresponsible to continue over-exploiting the aquifers and extracting water with arsenic, which causes cancer and takes the lives of children and adults. It is one of the areas of the country with more diseases of this type,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to leave any projects unfinished for the next administration.
The Clean Water for the Laguna project seeks to supply drinking water from the Nazas River and the Lázaro Cárdenas and Francisco Zarco dams to 1.6 million people in the Durango municipalities of Gómez Palacio, Lerdo, Mapimí and Tlahualio, and the Coahuila municipalities of Francisco I Madero, Matamoros, San Pedro, Torreón and Viesca. The National Water Commission (Conagua) predicts the investment will cost over 10 billion pesos (about US $503 million.)
The project could be completed by the end of 2023, according to projections, and involves building a pumping station, a water treatment plant, 35 kilometers of gravity-fed lines and 11 kilometers of pressure lines, among other infrastructure.
Durango Governor José Rosas Aispuro Torres and Coahuila Governor Miguel Ángel Riquelme Solís both signaled at the conference that the availability of clean water was a priority for the region.