Farmers in Mexico ambushed soldiers and seized a dam to stop water payments to the United States, in a sign of growing conflict over increasingly scarce resources, the New York Times is reporting.

A story penned by reporter Natalie Kitroeff quotes Sonny Hinojosa, general manager of Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2.

“It’s just not going to happen, unless a storm develops and helps Mexico, which is normally what they count on,” Hinojosa said. “They gamble and hope that a storm or mother nature will bail them out.”

The story starts:

BOQUILLA, Mexico — The farmers armed themselves with sticks, rocks and homemade shields, ambushed hundreds of soldiers guarding a dam and seized control of one of the border region’s most important bodies of water.

The Mexican government was sending water — their water — to Texas, leaving them next to nothing for their thirsty crops, the farmers said. So they took over the dam and have refused to allow any of the water to flow to the United States for more than a month.

“This is a war,” said Victor Velderrain, a grower who helped lead the takeover, “to survive, to continue working, to feed my family.”

The standoff is the culmination of longstanding tensions over water between the United States and Mexico that have recently exploded into violence, pitting Mexican farmers against their own president and the global superpower next door.

Negotiating the exchange of water between the two countries has long been strained, but rising temperatures and long droughts have made the shared rivers along the border more valuable than ever, intensifying the stakes for both nations.

The dam’s takeover is a stark example of how far people are willing to go to defend livelihoods threatened by climate change — and of the kind of conflict that may become more common with increasingly extreme weather.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the full story by reporter Natalie Kitroeff in The New York Times.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows low water levels near La Boquilla Dam. Photo credit: Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times.

Cuellar: Mexico says it will repay its water debt by Oct. 24

Mexico’s Agriculture Secretary Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar.

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and Ron Whitlock Reports, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says he has been told Mexico will pay its water debt to the United States.

Cuellar said he has met with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón and Mexico’s Agriculture Secretary Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula.

Under the 1944 treaty, Mexico owes the United States almost 345,600 acre-feet (426 million cubic meters) this year that must be paid by Oct. 24.

“This thing about Mexico getting behind every five years, I have seen that for years. One of the first times it was brought to my attention was when I was secretary of state and that was 19 years ago. And here we are talking about the same issues,” Cuellar said.

“Look, I was in Mexico City last week and I did talk to the Mexican Embassy before I left and I talked in person with the person in charge of North America, from his office. They said their intention was to pay this back by October 24. I did see the plan, what they are trying to do, but they are saying they do want to go ahead and pay this. They have been in communication with the International Boundary and Water Commission.”

Cuellar said Mexico would like some help from the State of Texas but would not elaborate. 

“They said they do need the help of the State of Texas on something. And again, without going into details, let’s wait a little bit. I know what they are asking. But, their intent, just to summarize it, their intent, what they told me, is to try to get this paid up before Oct.. 24.”

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