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Mexico farmers protest against water payments to the US

FARMERS in northern Mexico protested against water payments to the United States on Thursday and demanded access to supplies for their own crops.

Under a 1944 treaty, Mexico must supply water from its dams to its northern neighbour, but it has fallen behind with payments from previous years and has to catch up on water transfers. 

The country owes almost 486 million cubic meters of water for this year and this debt must be paid by October 24. 

Protesters in the town of Delicas, which lies in Chihuahua state near one of the dams where water is being released to flow northward, used equipment to drag pick-up trucks belonging to the National Water Commission to nearby railway tracks, where the vehicles were flipped over and set on fire.

A building where the commission has its offices was also set on fire, as were toll booths on a nearby highway.

Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral said that the state was investigating those who instigated the “vandalism and violence” and pledged: “The actions of the criminals will not go unpunished.”

While Mr Corral acknowledged there had been a large increase in water use in the area, he said that mismanagement of water resources by the Mexican government was to blame.

In recent months, state forces guarding dam gates at other sites in the region have clashed with protesters.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed that the protests were being fanned by opposition politicians for their own gain, adding that there was enough water to comply with the treaty and irrigate local crops.

He criticised the “attitude of confrontation” and the burning of state property, while promising that the farmers and other locals “will not lack water.”

The expansion of crops in Mexico’s farms has meant that 71 per cent of the northward-flowing Conchos River has been used by the country. 

However, under the treaty, it should only be using 62 per cent of the water, letting the rest flow into Rio Bravo on the US border.

In the past, Mexico has delayed payments, hoping that periodic tropical storms from the Gulf would create occasional rainfall. 

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Hanna helped raise water levels in Texas but did not reach inland to fill dams in Chihuahua. 

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