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La Boquilla, where farmers have taken over the dam. La Boquilla, where farmers have taken over the dam.

Tension continues at La Boquilla dam as more National Guardsmen expected

Power, internet went down Thursday night; vandals set turbine on fire

The unrest that came to a violent head on Tuesday at the La Boquilla dam in Chihuahua continued Thursday night as protesters who have taken control of the dam awaited the arrival of more National Guard troops.

At 10 p.m., the entire area lost electricity, internet and cell phone signals, creating a communications and media blackout that some suspect was intentional.

The mayor of San Francisco de Conchos, José Ramírez Carrasco, reported that a group of infiltrators doused one of the dam’s turbines in diesel and set it afire yesterday. The mayor said that they also left bouquets of flowers, candles and packages of worm-ridden clothing at the site. 

Friday morning, personnel from the  Federal Electricity Commission arrived to inspect the damage caused by the fire.

Several mayors in the region, including Alfredo Lozoya from the southern municipality of Parral, spent Thursday night at La Boquilla in solidarity with the farmers occupying the dam, who are protesting the diversion of water to the United States in order to meet the terms of a 1944 treaty.

“The fight is fair, not only to defend the water of our farmer brothers but also because of the unfortunate events that occurred on Tuesday night in Delicias,” said Lozoya, referring to the couple who were victims of an armed attack.

Versions of what occurred are contradictory, but as authorities try to sort out what happened, friends and family of Yessica Silva, 36, said goodbye to the mother of three yesterday.

The funeral was held as her husband, Jaime Torres, a 42-year-old alfalfa farmer, remained in the hospital with serious injuries resulting from three gunshot wounds to the neck and shoulder.

Silva and Torres attended the protest Tuesday afternoon in which thousands of farmers and ranchers, armed with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails, took control of the dam from National Guard members clad in riot gear. The Guard relinquished control of the dam after trying to drive them off with tear gas. 

The farmers’ action was in response to the National Water Commission (Conagua) allegedly violating an agreement with ranchers by diverting water from the La Boquilla dam to the United States. 

Mexico has been pressured by the United States to pay its 426-million-cubic-meter water debt, which comes due next month, by releasing water from dams on the Mexican side of the border. 

The president displays photos of ex-politicians he claims are behind the protest.
The president displays photos of ex-politicians he claims are behind the protest.

Silva and Torres were on their way home from La Boquilla when they were shot in their pickup truck. 

“They were attacked, according to various testimonies and accusations, by elements of the National Guard. We strongly condemn the events,” said Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who demanded that the Attorney General’s Office investigate the incident.

However, 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. Seventeen guardsmen are are under investigation for the shooting.

President López Obrador said today that mayors, legislators and ex-governors of opposing political parties who have interests in agriculture in the area are behind the protests, but vowed that those responsible for Silva’s death will be punished. “We are not going to cover up for anyone,” he said Friday morning. “If there is abuse of authority, if a crime has been committed, we are going to punish the guilty,” 

López Obrador supported the National Guard’s version of events, that they were only returning fire during a chase by armed civilians.

Yolanda Torres, Jaime Torres’ sister, denies that the couple was carrying weapons. “My brother and my sister-in-law are good people. I have no words for the president. The National Guard attacked them for no reason,” she said.

Governor Corral said none of the National Guard vehicles have bullet holes in them, and that witnesses say the couple were shot without provocation.  

As of Friday morning, around 100 hooded men armed with sticks, stones and pipes were guarding access to the dam. More National Guard troops have yet to arrive.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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