Water, bad and good, has long been a prickly problem between the United States and Mexico. For decades, aging pipes at water treatment facilities have dumped massive amounts of raw sewage and debris into the Tijuana river basin, contaminating nearby beaches north of the border. This has been an ongoing issue, especially when it rains. That being said, a bilateral international committee is working on solutions, even if the U.S. has to foot most of the bill.

A more urgent conflict however, deals with good water from Mexico, and the lack of it flowing north from the Rio Grande. An international treaty signed in 1944 calls for a shared water system between the two countries for farming purposes. Gauged in five year in cycles, the U.S. is obligated to release water into the Colorado River that flows south, and Mexico agreed to a pledge to return the favor on a consistent basis. While the treaty is a bit vague on the specific amounts of water to be shared, it is widely recognized that our neighbors got the better end of the deal. That’s because the semi-arid state of Chihuahua produces tomatoes, onions and other veggies that require large amounts of the precious liquid stored in La Boquilla Dam. Ranching is also an important industry. But you can ditto that for south Texas, where residents grow a variety of crops including sugar cane, and climate change has contributed to some hot, dry summers.

Rural Unrest

With the cartel cancer that continues to rock the republic on a daily basis, folks still seem content to live their daily lives as long as the government doesn’t mess with their lifeline, which is water to help grow their food. Farmers will defend that right to their death, which has created the current crisis. Here’s how it all went down.

Privately seething over Donald Trump’s campaign threats of building a great border wall and sending the tab to Mexico, the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto wasn’t too enthused about honoring the pact when in office and ignored it. But this set Mexico behind about 380 million cubic meters of water, with an installment that’s due in late October. The current Mexican government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has acknowledged the debt, but when he tried to drain small amounts of water from the dam, the Chihuahua farmers rebelled and violence erupted. The Mexican National Guard was summoned and fatalities occurred among the protesters. Lopez Obrador, a Socialist reformer who gained power in a landslide victory, has seen his popularity diminish since traveling to Washington D.C. to sign the new USMCA trade agreement. And now with this latest conflict, farmers in northern Mexico are calling the president a traitor. Lopez Obrador, in his view, feels he must comply to avoid future, more serious ..

“We don’t want sanctions…we don’t want conflicts,” insists the president, who prefers a good working relationship with Trump. “What happens to us if he tries to close the border?”

It’s true, of course, that with the American elections only weeks away, Lopez Obrador could remove that stone in his shoe should Trump lose. That would be a positive turn of events. But like most leftest leaders, AMLO is more mindful of “rebellions” on the home front. He feels like the rural conflicts and other troubles have been the work of rival parties like the PRI and PAN. That could be true. And he’s also aware that residents who live along the Texas border are duel Mexican citizens and a part of his progressive base.

Whatever the case, these two “bookend” presidents seem to have a cordial relationship, so why rock the boat? If Mexico is behind on the treaty agreement, which Lopez Obrador seems to confirm, just send the damn water. He can always blame it on Peña Nieto.


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