Farmers, troops skirmish over water in northern Mexico

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday he would ask the Attorney General’s Office to investigate a clash between hundreds of farmers and National Guard troops at a dam in the northern state of Chihuahua and a subsequent incident that left two people dead.

It was the latest flashpoint in an ongoing conflict over the Mexican government’s attempts to pay off its water debt with the United States over objections of local farmers.

Video from the clash Tuesday showed stick and rock wielding protesters skirmishing with guardsmen in riot gear amid a cloud of tear gas. The guardsmen eventually pulled back and the protesters succeeded in closing the valves in the Boquilla dam to keep water from escaping the reservoir.

“It’s very unfortunate what happened yesterday,” López Obrador said at his morning news conference. “The National Guard prudently left to avoid a confrontation.”

But a short time later Wednesday, the National Guard said in a series of Twitter messages that it had arrested three people with tear gas projectiles and a gun magazine Tuesday night. When guardsmen tried to transport the three to the town of Delicias they were intercepted and fired upon from several vehicles. The troops returned fire and later found one person dead and one wounded in a vehicle. The second person died later at a hospital.

Mexico has fallen behind in the amount of water it must send north from its dams under a 1944 treaty, and time is running out to make up the shortfall by the Oct. 24 deadline.

López Obrador again suggested Wednesday that the tensions are being stirred up by opposition politicians.

Last week, he suggested he might ask the United Nations to audit Mexico’s water payments to the U.S.

In late July, demonstrators in Chihuahua burned several government vehicles, blocked railway tracks and set afire a government office and highway tollbooths to protest the release of water from local dams to pay the U.S.

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