Executive Intelligence Review
This article appears in the June 14, 2013 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Mexico's Drought Demands
'NAWAPA-Plus' Infrastructure Projects

by Cynthia R. Rush

[PDF version of this article]

June 10—Gov. Jorge Herrera of the Mexican state of Durango warned on May 29 of the "catastrophic" nature of the drought now afflicting 21 of Mexico's 32 states. He spoke at a meeting of the Water Commission of the Mexican Governors Conference (Conago) and the Potable Water and Sanitation Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

Herrera, president of Conago's Water Commission, warned that the three-year-long drought is the longest-lasting in 100 years and has created a life-or-death crisis which threatens to exterminate, not only agriculture, but the Mexican people themselves, for whom food and potable water in the drought-stricken regions of the country have become increasingly inaccessible.

The situation could be described as "traumatic," Herrera said. "In terms of water conflicts, fate is overtaking us. We must now think of how to finance hydraulic projects which, although expensive, must become reality." Federico Arroyo, president of the Chamber of Deputies, added that "there is no water project more expensive than the one that doesn't exist." The consequences of not building these projects is what must be taken into account, he argued.

The outlook for 2013 is grim, the meeting's attendees explained: 80% of cultivated land is dependent entirely on rainfall, and on the irrigated land that remains, dams are almost completely empty. In some states, such as Chihuahua, which borders the United States, there are dams only 23% full, but most are at 10-15% of capacity! Much of both rural and urban water infrastructure is dilapidated and needs to be rebuilt.

A dramatic change in public policy, with aggressive involvement by the federal government, creation of new credit mechanisms, as well as vastly increased emergency assistance to drought-stricken areas, is immediately called for, said the governors and legislators attending the meeting. Failure to find solutions, they warned, could result in "water conflicts" among communities, cities, states, and even countries—not to mention the toll in human lives.

All true enough; but viewed from the optic of the breakdown and bankruptcy of the global financial system, the threat of thermonuclear war, and the British Queen's drive to kill off what she considers to be 6 billion "useless eaters" on the planet, the governors' and congressmen's proposals in themselves cannot begin to reverse the catastrophe that Herrera described.

NAWAPA-Plus the Only Option

This is especially the case since the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has shown little inclination to break with the neoliberal economic framework that has dominated Mexico since the 1982 crushing of the nationalist development perspective of Lyndon LaRouche's close ally, President José López Portillo (1976-82). Despite some efforts to increase palliative measures, the government has done little to dump the "green" policies championed in the previous Felipe Calderón Administration by then-head of the National Water Commission (Conagua), José Luis Luege Tamargo, an agent of the British monarchy's fascist Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The emphasis is still largely on "managing" and "adjusting to" scarce resources.

In an interview with the daily El Universal published May 4, current Conagua director David Korenfeld reported that plans for water rationing are already in place, slated to begin first in rural areas and then, "if the emergency persists, move to urban areas."

The only viable programmatic approach to addressing the existential crisis facing the Great American Desert, of which north-central Mexico is a part, to be achieved through a series of sovereign treaty arrangements, is the project known as "NAWAPA-Plus"—the North American Water and Power Alliance, combined with Mexico's long-planned North West Hydraulic Plan (PLHINO) and the Northern Gulf Hydraulic Plan (PLHIGON)—which would create a single, integrated North American water project.

LaRouche and his associates have elaborated this project in great detail over a period of years (see following article). Complemented inside Mexico with other major infrastructure projects, including the construction of dozens of nuclear plants for electricity generation and desalination, PLHINO and PLHIGON would transport water from Mexico's south to the water-starved north, and through the hookup with NAWAPA, transform these parched lands into areas capable of producing bountiful quantities of food.

These projects are not unknown to some of Mexico's elected leaders. In fact, in a July 27, 2012 press conference, the same Governor Herrera who described Mexico's current crisis in such stark terms threw down the gauntlet to then-President-elect Peña Nieto and, without naming it, called for building the PLHIGON.

"We have to bring water from [the southern states of] Chiapas and Tabasco," he said, "where, unfortunately, a large number of cubic meters of water are wasted because of its abundance, to the states of the center-north.... If these droughts are recurrent, we have to think of a solution that goes to the root of the problem.... These are long-term projects, but it will be a challenge facing the new federal government and the new Chamber of Deputies, to carry out studies and make investments.... We have to get going; although they are long-term projects, they can be the solution. Their cost is nothing compared to the lack of water and the dramatic consequences."

Herrera explained at that time that his proposal was to build "aqueducts, which would help to fundamentally mitigate the grave problem of drought which the region is suffering, and which is leaving millions of people defenseless." He added that this project would be a "bridge" to unite Mexico's regions, and bring greater economic growth, employment, and welfare to families, and that five regional meetings would be held in different states during August.

During the May 29 gathering, Congressman Oscar Cantón Zetina of the southeastern state of Tabasco offered his state's water supply for the nation's development, given that Tabasco possesses 30% of Mexico's surface water and experiences annual floods. If we build pipelines for gas, oil, and their derivatives, he asked, why can't we do the same for water? We must invest in transporting the water and making it potable, he said. Tabasco can provide much of this water to the entire nation.

In March of this year, Energy Minister Joaquín Coldwell, called for a full discussion of nuclear power as a viable, "clean" answer for Mexico. "It's a discussion we have to have in the energy sector," he said. "We should move towards a stronger nuclear program."

Mexicans Are Starving

But as organizers of the LaRouche Citizens' Movement (Mocila) told those attending the May 29 meeting, the fight to build these projects and secure the nation's future cannot be won internally. Just as López Portillo did, nationalist forces and institutions must seek out and coordinate with international allies, especially with LaRouche in the United States, with a principled policy outlook that will overturn the murderous Anglo-Dutch financial dictatorship that has devastated both nations'—and the world's—economies and populations.

This means reinstating Franklin Roosevelt's Glass-Steagall law in the United States and passing similar legislation internationally, including in Mexico. It also means creating a Hamiltonian credit and national banking system (a tradition with strong historical roots in Mexico) that can finance great water and related infrastructure projects such as NAWAPA-Plus.

The urgency of immediate action can't be overstated. It is estimated that 1.280 million square kilometers out of Mexico's total national territory of 1.973 million km2—almost 65%—is affected by the drought. In several states, especially among poorer Mexicans, hunger and malnutrition are rampant.

A number of peasant organizations reported in late May that the high rates of desertification in the north have caused the loss of at least 5 million hectares that used to produce food, resulting in the importation of 34 million tons of grain that otherwise would have been produced in the country.

Food shortages affect an estimated 28 million people, or one in five Mexicans; 1.2 million children suffer from malnutrition, and 3.6 million children under the age of five do not have enough food to eat. Carlos Ramos Alba, a member of the executive council of the peasant organization National Council of the Plan de Ayala National Coordinator warned at a May 20 press conference that the food crisis is so severe that "trying to eat three meals a day becomes a punishment, when there is nothing to put in your mouth."

Add to this the ruling PRI party's criminal decision to remove from its national political platform the clause that opposes any application of a Value Added Tax (VAT) to food or medicine. With that last defense of Mexicans' welfare gone, what are poor Mexicans to do? asked Leopoldo González, Vice president of the National Chamber of the Bread-Producing Industry, speaking with Entornointeligence.com in early May. "They are forbidden to eat or get sick!"

Over the past 18 years, he said, the cost of the basic market basket has increased by 582.4%; a 16% VAT tax will place the most basic food staples and medicines out of reach. Several Mexican dailies reported on June 4 that in the month of April, Mexico had the highest rate of food price inflation—9.5%—of all members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A National Security Threat

The drought has hit Mexico's northern region the hardest, followed by the central region. According to the national Forestry Commission (Conafor), of the country's 22 cities considered to be most important in size and economic activity, 17 are in arid zones, with a combined population of 48 million, or 42% of the nation's 115 million people.

"Our country is now suffering the consequences of desertification, at the same time that drought and water scarcity are affecting worrisome [land] extensions due to over-exploitation of aquifers," Conafor said in a late-May statement. "The North of the Country Is Dying of Thirst," read a May 21 Televisa headline.

According to Arturo Osornio Sánchez, Undersecretary of Rural Development at Mexico's Agriculture Ministry, 18 of Mexico's 32 states are "collapsed" due to both drought and frosts. The National Meteorological Service had forecast that rainfall for May would be only half the average rainfall as measured for that month over the past 40 years.

Looming food shortages pose a national security threat, warned Benjamín Grayeb, president of the National Agricultural Council on May 3. Agricultural production could drop by as much as 20% this year, he added, with a particularly dangerous decline in grain production.

Mexico currently imports more than 40% of its food, while exporting massive amounts at the same time! It is sixth in the world in the production of beef, yet many of its small farmers and cattle ranchers are in dire straits, forced to slaughter animals prematurely or sell them off because they cannot feed them. In 2012, Mexico produced 1,800 tons of beef and became one of the major suppliers to the U.S. market. Yet it had to import 25% of its corn consumption, 51% of its wheat, and 75% of its rice, as drought wiped out those crops in key states.

Sonora: a Test Case

The fight that has erupted in Sonora, one of Mexico's most important agricultural states affected by the drought, is instructive. The LaRouche movement has been present in this important northwestern state for years, educating and mobilizing the citizenry about the urgency of solving the worsening water shortage through a combination of building the PLHINO in conjunction with NAWAPA, and nuclear desalination plants. Now, a Citizens Movement for Water, the Yaqui Indian tribe, and broader political layers in the state are demanding a sane and competent water policy, and have taken that fight to Mexico's Presidency, to force a national decision.

The current governor of the state, Guillermo Padrés, and the financial and WWF interests behind him, instead, are intent on taking water out of the already parched agricultural region in the south of Sonora, transferring water from the Yaqui River via a new aqueduct to the state capital, Hermosillo—until that water, too, runs out.

The confrontation between these forces is coming to a head. On May 8, the Supreme Court of the Nation upheld a lower court injunction against construction of the aqueduct, until the concerns of the Yaqui Tribe are taken into consideration. On May 21, the Yaqui Tribe published a letter to President Peña Nieto, as a full-page ad in the national daily Reforma, calling upon him to force the state government to obey the court ruling.

There is full consensus among the Yaqui people against the idea of overexploiting a water basin which is already overexploited and forecast to a have a greater deficit, the letter read. "The aqueduct is emblematic of the abuse of power and disregard for the law of those persisting in carrying out to an extreme an economic policy which prevents the steps for more water, such as desalination and the PLHINO, at the same time that they try to impose speculative criteria upon a strategic resource for the development and well-being of the people."

Six days later, at a May 28 rally of over 20,000 people in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, opposing construction of the aqueduct, attended by the mayor and other political figures, a call by the Citizen's Movement for Water was approved for an indefinite blockade of three key tollroads in the area, until the federal government steps in on this fight.

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