Friday, February 1, 2013

Cabalgando en Chihuahua -- Murder and Water

Just returned from a long day traveling around Villa Ahumada, about 130 kilometers south of Juarez experiencing the water/land crisis in this municipio that I was told is the largest in Mexico – and probably the poorest, said my traveling companion from the municipio’s water committee. 
I don’t doubt that it is the largest, but certainly not the poorest – at least in the last decade when the Mennonite communities began migrating to the intermontane desert plains her from Cuauhtemoc, where the Mennonites have run out of land for their children and grandchildren. Drilling to unprecedented depths, the Mennonite colonies have established might agribusiness enterprises even as the drought intensifies.
Momento. I intended to start this posting with the link to my new Truthout article on drones. Several folks wrote me to ask that I include the link as soon as it was published (today). Here it is:
Predator Drones Stalk the Border without Budget or Strategy
And then I get several media calls and queries about my drone research – when all I really want to do is to start telling the story of climate change, water crisis, and land use patterns in northern Mexico – which may seem much less important that having more Predators set to patrol U.S. borders. But I don’t think so. It is my increasing conviction that we – it is certainly true for me – get caught up in stories and issues that distract us from the much more important and inevitably more complex issues.
Tomorrow morning I will be joining a five-day cabalgata, starting at the Benito Juarez ejido in Buenaventura and ending at the Palacio de Gobierno in Chihuahua. Not one of those traditional cabalgatas celebrating Pancho Villa and beer. Leading this march a caballo to Chihuahua will be some of the family members of the middle-aged activist couple that were shot a quemaropa last October.
Ismael Solorio and Manuelita Solís were the local leaders of the el Barzon network of small farmers in Chihuahua. I didn’t know them but I participated in a Barzon action on July 2, when they and more than three hundred farmers from the Namiquipa, Flores Magon, Buenaventura and Villa Ahumada municipios met to peaceably and successfully obligate a group of Mennonites to shut down a well drilling operation. I was there to report and chronicle this action, which because of the armed intervention of two rogue police (armed with Ar-14s) marked the literal start of the water border war in northern Mexico. I participated only I the sense that the shooting began when these officer criminals rushed into to attempt to grab my camera, which I held on at they pulled the camera strap and was only able to retain the camera when the Barzon men and women (none of whom were armed or even aggressive) surrounded me and pulled me away – which so angered these ruffians that they began shooting in the air and at our feet.
You may begin to understand why I am not so dedicated to my drone research – even if they are named Predators.
The murdered activists were involved in the campaign to close illegal wells that are threatening the livelihoods, indeed the survival of the communities of small farmers and ejidatarios in the Carmen water basin. But they were mostly active in opposing the drilling operations (more than four hundred exploratory drilling operations of Cascabel, part of the Canadian mining company MAGSILVER.
Molly Molloy posted a piece on the La Frontera Google Group immediately after the assassination last October, referencing a 2009 murder of the widely respected Barzon and Agrodinamica Nacional leader Armando Villareal Martha in March 2008:
While I am linking, if you want to see more about the state-Barzon tensions as this cabalgata sets out to set forth their demands regarding the water crisis, you can check out these Youtube news links;
Denuncia Barzón tortura a dirigente de Benito Juárez
Amenazan y golpean a dos barzonistas policías estatales
I well know that we can’t be involved in all the important issues of the day, especially when they don’t directly concern U.S. policy. But I believe the water tensions in Chihuahua underscore social-justice issues that do deserve the close attention of those of us concerned with border and U.S.-Mexico relations. What is more, it is my sense that the incipient water wars south of the border should alert us to the kind of social, economic, cultural, and political tensions we will be seeing on our side of the border before too long.

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