Mexico: capital residents fight water project

Dozens of Mexican civilians and police were injured on May 21 in a violent confrontation over water resources in the centuries-old village of San Bartolo Ameyalco, now part of Alvaro Obregón delegación (borough) in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City). Over the past year a group of village residents has fought against a plan that the Alvaro Obregón government announced in April 2013 to run pipes off the natural spring now supplying water to San Bartolo Ameyalco. When workers arrived, with a police escort, in the morning of May 21 to lay down pipes for the project, residents armed with clubs, rocks and Molotov bombs attempted to block the construction. The protesters set up flaming barricades and detained at least two police agents, while the police arrested nine protesters, according to villagers. By the end of the day the village was without electricity and was surrounded by some 2,000 DF police agents, who ensured that the construction could proceed. About 50 police agents and 50 to 70 residents were reportedly injured.

According to delegación head Leonel Luna, the project's goal is to use the spring to supply potable water to 20,000 area residents—without affecting access to water by the San Bartolo Ameyalco community. DF head of government Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa, of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (DF), claimed on May 22 that he'd received reports blaming the protests on water vendors concerned that the increased supply of water would cut into their sales. DF security secretary Jesús Rodríguez Almeida charged that the attacks on police agents constituted what he called "citizen brutality."

Residents insisted that Leonel Luna's plan is not to supply water to nearby neighborhoods but to divert the water to the Centro Santa Fe, a huge shopping mall about five miles away. Hundreds of villagers gathered in an assembly in San Bartolo Ameyalco's main plaza on May 22 and announced that they would prevent the new pipe system from going into operation. They said they no longer recognized Luna as their representative; their only authority from now on would be the village assembly, they decided, and political parties would not be allowed to intervene. (Revolution News, May 21; La Jornada, Mexico, May 22, May 22, May 23)

In other news, the body of Ramón Corrales Vega, a former official of a local ejido (communal farm) was found in Choix municipality in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, the night of May 22-23; he was apparently shot by men armed with AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles. Corrales Vega was a leader in protests against iron mining by Paradox Global Resources S.A. de C.V., the Mexican subsidiary of the Chinese Rizhao Xingye Import and Export Co industrial conglomerate. Some 50 protesters kept workers and equipment from entering the Paradox mine for 15 days in August and September 2013 to press a demand that the company pay $5 million that the activists said it had promised the ejido. State police arrested 30 of the protesters, and 17 are still in custody. Corrales Vega had apparently been in hiding to avoid arrest for his role in the protest. (LJ, May 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 25.