MEOQUI, Chihuahua (Reuters) – Prosecutors in Mexico are questioning 17 militarized police involved in a gunfight that killed a woman and left her husband injured, officials said on Thursday, after tensions flared in protests against a dam diverting water to the United States.
On Wednesday, the National Guard militarized police said two people were killed after its officers “repelled aggression” from armed civilians in the town of Delicias in drought-hit northern Chihuahua state, following violent demonstrations at the nearby La Boquilla dam.
But officials on Thursday said the husband had survived and was hospitalized with serious injuries.
At a memorial for Jessica Silva, 36, her mother said the couple were “peaceful people” who wanted to support the family’s farm.
“The only thing we are fighting for is what belongs to us, the water, for us farmers because everything is drying up,” Justina Zamarripa said between tears.
A family friend, Carolina Lopez, said Silva was not armed.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters he lamented Silva’s death and called for an investigation into whether she was killed by the National Guard.
A spokesman for the National Guard, which was created by Lopez Obrador’s administration to improve crime-fighting, said 17 agents were cooperating with a probe.
Farmers have been protesting a plan to divert additional water across the northern border due to Mexico’s “water-debt” stemming from a 1944 bilateral treaty that regulates water sharing between the neighbors.
Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral on Wednesday said the victims had protested at La Boquilla, where demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at security troops, eventually occupying the dam and closing the sluice gates.
The couple then encountered the National Guard in the evening on the road to Delicias.
“On the way back, they were attacked, according to various testimonies… by elements of the National Guard,” Corral said.
The region’s dry spell has affected crops. Farmers and protesters say the government needs to prioritize water shortages over diplomatic agreements.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Additional reporting by Raul Cortes and Diego Ore; Editing by Aurora Ellis)