Thursday, December 7, 2023

Foreign Affairs blames Chihuahua governor for water debt arrears

Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral has failed to comply with an agreement with the federal government to deliver water to the United States, according to a high ranking foreign affairs official.

Roberto Velasco, head of the Foreign Ministry’s North America department, told the newspaper Milenio that Corral has failed to comply with a pact to send hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water north of the border from Chihuahua.

Mexico has a large water debt with the United States under the terms of a 1944 bilateral treaty.

Corral has denied signing an agreement with the federal government but Milenio said it has seen a pact endorsed by the governor and Velasco.

The foreign affairs official said that one possible reason why Corral decided not to comply with his commitment is that he believes doing so would hurt his National Action Party at 2021 elections in Chihuahua.

Farmers have protested against the diversion of water on numerous occasions and occupied the Boquilla dam.

Corral said last week that the northern border state is complying with its obligations to send water to the U.S. and that officials with the National Water Commission (Conagua) are to blame for the failure to keep up with Mexico’s water obligations.

But Velasco claimed that the governor has manipulated figures and that Chihuahua is illegally retaining water.

“It’s the responsibility of the federal government to distribute water equitably and we’ll continue down that path to comply with our obligations [to the U.S.] even though it doesn’t suit the political interests of the Chihuahua government and annoys Governor Corral. … It’s not fair for a state to monopolize water at the expense of others,” he said.

Velasco’s remarks came after Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía Berdeja accused a family of walnut farmers, a group of onion farmers and politicians of controlling and monopolizing water in Chihuahua.

For its part, Conagua rejected Corral’s claim that its officials are to blame for the unpaid water debt, which is due to be paid by October 24.

The water commission said in a statement that it had to divert water from dams in Chihuahua because it can only send water it owes to the United States from international dams on the border, as Corral proposed, under certain conditions which cannot currently be met.

Velasco noted that Corral is aware that his proposal is not viable because water in such dams is needed to supply border cities such as Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras.

Conagua said that in order to comply with the water treaty – considered by many to be favorable to Mexico as the United States sends more water south of the border than it receives – it’s essential that Chihuahua meet its obligation to send 54.1% of the total water quantity  that must be sent north of the border in each five year treaty cycle.

The state has so far only delivered 45.8% of the water that must be sent to the United States, the commission said.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp) 

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