The conflict between farmers and the federal government over water in Chihuahua that exploded earlier this week has claimed two victims.
A man and a woman who were protesting at the La Boquilla dam and were on their way home to Meoqui Tuesday night were found wounded in their pickup truck in the nearby city of Delicias.
The woman, Yessica Silva, died at the scene and her husband, Jaime Torres, was in serious condition Thursday morning.
Witnesses say the National Guard opened fire on the vehicle near a gas station. Two National Guard vehicles were seen in the area but were allowed to leave by local police, witnesses say.
Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral demanded that the Attorney General’s Office investigate the incident.
“They were attacked, according to various testimonies and accusations, by elements of the National Guard. We strongly condemn the events,” he stated and assured that those responsible will not go unpunished.
Chihuahua Attorney General César Augusto Peniche said he has requested a report from units involved in the incident and that their weapons have been seized in order to conduct ballistics tests and compare them to casings found at the scene.
Torres underwent emergency surgery yesterday at a cost of 100,000 pesos. The mayor of Parral, Alfredo Lozoya Santillán, offered to cover the costs out of his own pocket.
The National Guard says it was fired on first by armed civilians after they arrested three protesters found to be in possession of tear gas and ammunition.
“The National Guard repelled the aggression. After this, an examination was carried out, locating a vehicle with a deceased person and another injured person; the latter was transferred to a hospital for attention.”
Led by the mayor of Delicias, Eliseo Compeán, residents protested outside the National Guard barracks, demanding that the federal government answer for the murder. They blocked the road leading to the barracks and set up tents.
In response, the National Guard has turned 17 officers over to prosecutors for investigation. “We, the National Guard, are in the hands of state authorities. They are the ones who are investigating, and we will help by contributing what they ask of us and demand,” Colonel Didier Peralta said.
Tensions in the area have been brewing for at least six months and erupted again on Tuesday when the National Water Commission (Conagua) allegedly violated an agreement with ranchers by diverting water from the La Boquilla dam to the United States.
An estimated 5,000 farmers stormed the dam, attacking members of the National Guard with Molotov cocktails, sticks and rocks and demanding that they shut the floodgates.
Guardsmen clad in riot gear launched tear gas at the protesters in a failed attempt to retake the water facility and were forced to withdraw.
The dispute traces back to a 1944 water rights treaty with the United States.
Mexico has fallen behind in the amount of water it must send north and owes the U.S. 426 million cubic meters, which must be paid by October 24 by releasing water from dams on the Mexican side of the border. The United States has been pressuring Mexico in recent weeks to abide by the treaty’s terms.
But for farmers desperate to irrigate their crops in the middle of a drought, sending water north has dire consequences.
Yesterday, President López Obrador asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the incidents at the dam, which he says were instigated by his political opponents.