Valley farmers plot out bridge 'tractorcade'
May 17, 2002
By Dulcinea Cuellar
PHARR, Texas - Rio Grande Valley farmers are expected to hold a protest Thursday
morning [May 23, 2002] at the Pharr International Bridge to highlight the
need for the Mexican government to release the 1.4 million acre-feet of water
it owes the United States under a 1944 treaty.
Farmers are calling the protest a "tractorcade" and will not decide until
Thursday morning if they will block access to the bridge. Organizers of the
protest said they did not know how many farmers would take part in the rally.
"If they don't come, they will be either out in the fields or praying for
rain in their church," said Harold Seiver, one of the organizers.
Seiver, the group's spokesman, said the protest is to voice the farmers'
frustrations over the ongoing water dispute between the United States and
The Farmers for Treaty Compliance, a grassroots organization made up of local
farmers, contend that Mexico has violated the treaty and owes the United
States the water.
Farmers should not have to suffer the consequences of the U.S. Department of
State's failure to force Mexico to comply with the treaty, Seiver said.
"We can't wait until the end of May," he said. "We need the water now."
Seiver said he is disappointed in the Mexican government for not letting some
of the water flow down the Rio Grande.
"We have already been hurt," he said. "The river belongs to both of us, and
when water flows down, it's both of ours, not just Mexico's."
A report released this month by the U.S. State Department says the state of
Chihuahua has used more than 10 times more water than it owes to the United
The 50-page report, written by the United States Section of the International
Boundary and Water Commission [IBWC], details that both the United States and
the state of Tamaulipas are in dire need of the water.
"The Mexican government denies that Chihuahua is green, but we have satellite
pictures," he said. "Their land is green, and then look at ours."
Tommy Garcia, a citrus farmer that owns and manages 500 acres of citrus crops
in the Valley, said he is "barely hanging on" to his crop, but if Mexico
releases the water, the crop may have a chance of survival.
"Right now, I only have one (irrigation allocation) left," Garcia said, "and
we're not even half-way through the year."
He said water intensive crops like sugar cane and citrus are feeling the
brunt of the water shortage.
"You need to constantly water those crops," he said. "If not, they start to
dry. that's what is happening now."
Garcia said he hopes the tractorcade makes people aware that the water
shortage is a problem not just for farmers, but for everyone who lives and
works in the Valley.
"I don't think residents know the severity of the water problem," Garcia
said. "Every time they need water to shower or cook, all they need to do is
turn on the faucet and the water comes out.
"It's easy to take advantage of it, especially when they say that
municipalities will be the last ones to shut down."
No water for farmers can mean a big economic loss, he said.
"It really has a domino effect," he said. "If the agriculture goes, it pulls
down the tractor and feed companies and, before you know it, it's hitting
U. S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, has said that he has
considered sanctions against Mexico for withholding the water.
He also said he supports the farmers' efforts, as long as they do not disrupt
commerce on the bridge.
"They have the right to protest," Ortiz said Friday from his office in
Washington, D.C. "I can understand their frustration."
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said he is "neither for or against" the
farmers' protest, and may impose economic sanctions against Mexico if they do
not pay back the water debt.
"This is unacceptable," Hinojosa said. "The farmers are not being treated
fairly by Mexico and we ought to help them."
Leading lawmaker says Mexico has no water to give to the U.S.
May 18, 2002
A leading lawmaker from President Vicente Fox's party told U.S. legislators
on Friday that Mexico has no water to give its northern neighbor, Reforma
Mexican and U.S. lawmakers are meeting in the central state of Guanajuato to
talk about bilateral issues. One of the most sensitive topics is the demand
of the U.S. government that Mexico live up to the terms of a 1944 water
treaty, according to which Mexico supplies the U.S. with 500,000 cubic meters
of water annually from the delta of the Rio Grande River - known as the Rio
Bravo in Mexico.
"Mexico is aware of its responsibilities but no one is obligated to do the
impossible," said Felipe Calderon, the coordinator of the National Action
Party in the Chamber of Deputies.
Calderon said Mexico, which has several regions experiencing a severe
drought, cannot afford to give the U.S. water it does not even have for its
own citizens. Northern border towns are in a state of alert due to the
Calderon's statement seemed to undercut President Fox's promise on Wednesday,
in which he said he would come up with a plan within 15 days to pay off
Mexico's water debts to the U.S.
The U.S. has been applying political pressure on the Mexican government to
resolve the problem, which, it says, has caused heavy economic losses.
"The Texas governor says his state is losing more than one billion dollars
and has lost more than 45,000 jobs," U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey
Davidow told Reforma.
But Calderon said instead of blaming the other country, it would be more
constructive to find a mutually beneficial solution.
"Let's work together to find a way to better preserve our natural resources
before starting to fight over water that doesn't exist," he said.
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