Mexico arrests 6 Guard members in water protest death

·2-min read
National Guard troops equipped with riot gear stand guard at Las Pilas dam, two days after withdrawing from the nearby Boquilla dam after clashing with hundreds of farmers, in Camargo, Chihuahua State, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday he regretted the killing of a woman and the wounding of her husband following a Tuesday clash between National Guard troops and farmers over water. (AP Photo Christian Chavez)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's National Guard announced Tuesday that six of its members have been arrested in the death of a woman killed when Guard troops allegedly opened fire on her vehicle.

The troops had withdrawn from a dam in northern Chihuahua state following a clash with protesters angry about water withdrawals to pay the United States under a 1944 cross-border water-sharing agreement. Protesters stopped the some of the water transfers but Mexico eventually paid its debt by ceding water in other dams to the United States.

The National Guard wrote in its Twitter account that it had found evidence of the Guard officers' involvement in the September shooting. It said the investigation had been carried out by civilian prosecutors.

The National Guard is a quasi-military force largely staffed and commanded by the army, especially military police, but nominally under civilian control. It was created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador after he took office in late 2018, to supplement local police forces that are overwhelmed and military forces that are already deeply involved in law enforcement.

Officials initially said that said four vehicles began following guardsmen who were transporting three detainees after the protest, in which demonstrators took over the dam and chased guards out.

The National Guard initially said shots were fired from the vehicles and troops returned fire. The woman was killed and a man seriously wounded.

But the commander of the National Guard later called the death of the woman “a regrettable accident.”

National Guard Commander Luís Rodríguez Bucio said that after Guard members retreated from the dam, protesters had taken military-grade materials left behind, including “grenades,” possibly a reference to tear-gas or smoke grenades that Guard members had been using to quell the confrontation.

He said that after the retreat, three suspects approached a Guard detail and threatened to throw the grenades at them. They detained the suspects and were taking them to a nearby city to hand them over to civilian prosecutors.

At that point, Rodríguez Bucio said, trucks driven by protesters overtook the National Guard convoy that was taking the suspects for booking.

Guardsmen heard shots — it was unclear from where — and one officer opened fire, hitting a truck carrying the woman and her companion, who was badly wounded.

Rodríguez Bucio said the guardsmen thought the protesters were interfering with their convoy and trying to free the suspects.

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