JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The Mexican government says it has arrested six soldiers in connection with the shooting death of a woman who took part in the Sept. 8 citizens’ takeover of a dam in Chihuahua at the height of the recent U.S.-Mexico water conflict.
The soldiers are part of a National Guard unit that detained three individuals shortly after the water reservoir’s takeover, and shot at the pickups of farmers trailing the Guard’s convoy of vehicles.
The bullets struck and wounded farmer Jaime Torres and killed his wife, Jessica Silva. The soldiers later told their superiors they thought they heard shots coming from the farmers’ trucks. A state police investigation did not turn up any such evidence.
The farmers took over the dam to prevent President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from using water from La Boquilla dam in Camargo, Chihuahua, to pay off Mexico’s portion of a water debt under a 1944 treaty to the United States. Mexico ended up transferring water rights to the U.S. from international reservoirs in South Texas.
“The Federal Attorney General’s Office effected an investigation regarding the regrettable incident last September in Delicias, Chihuahua (and) found elements to presume the guilt of some members of our institution,” the National Guard said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The National Guard said in further tweets that six soldiers were arrested in connection with the shooting and that it is cooperating with civil authorities on their prosecution.
“The National Guard will not tolerate abuse or the excessive use of force by its personnel, as it acts with a total respect for human rights,” the Guard tweeted. However, it did not disclose what charges, exactly, the soldiers will be facing.
Chihuahua state Attorney General Cesar Augusto Peniche said those arrested included a lieutenant, a sergeant and four soldiers. The state official said he didn’t know the exact charges, either, but expected they would include homicide, attempted murder and abuse of authority.
The news was bittersweet for farmers and activists who are still holding the dam.
“They can never give us back what they took,” said Graciela Acosta, a water activist from Delicias, Chihuahua. “But at least this terrible act on the part of the National Guard will not remain unpunished.”
“Even if they give them a life sentence, they will not be able to repay the damage they have inflicted on this family. Yessi (Silva) was a wife, a mother, a daughter and she was a brave Mexican woman,” said Rosa Valles, member of an activist group called Chihuahua Citizens United for the Water.
Even though Mexico settled its water debt with the U.S. last Friday, the farmers remain in control of La Boquilla dam out of fears the Lopez Obrador administration will now channel their water to the state of Tamaulipas, whose farmers now fear being short-changed due to Mexico transferring Rio Grande water rights in their region to the United States.