A River of Discontent Runs through Chihuahua

As the June 7 mid-term Congressional elections approach, social grievances of all sorts are flowing like a river of discontent in the capital of Chihuahua state. For instance, five simultaneous but separate demonstrations April 28 brought traffic to a halt near state government offices in downtown Chihuahua City. Seemingly, it’s the marching season in Chihuahua.

In a virtually unprecedented convergence, hundreds of demonstrators sounded out on practically every contentious issue at play in the northern Mexican border state- human rights, justice system failings, economic and agricultural policy, housing, and public and environmental health.

Residents of the Rinconadas Los Nogales subdivision in Chihuahua City turned out in the streets to decry the lack of information about the results of medical exams they had undergone for toxic metals exposure, as well as the slow progress in relocating them to safer dwellings. The subdivision was built on land adjacent to the former Avalos smelter.

A neighboring protest was organized by supporters of the Sigala family who contend that relatives are falsely imprisoned on murder charges, while members of El Barzon, an organization of small farmers and debtors, protested the 2012 murders of their leader Ismael Solorio and his wife Manuela. El Barzon blames the unpunished killings on the couple’s opposition to a mine.

Long-running problems on the farm were also once again voiced on the streets of Chihuahua City, with familiar grievances of high production costs, low sales prices and marketing troubles topping the list of complaints. Blockading a downtown street with pick-ups, milk producers from Delicias and Rosales, towns which are located in an important agricultural zone south of Chihuahua City, denounced the suspension of government payments for milk they say was unfairly branded as of low quality.

Difficulties in the production and marketing of corn, beans and apples were also publicly aired.

“We now have to dump milk because there is nobody who buys it,” El Barzon leader Heraclio Rodriguez was quoted. “Increasingly, we plant less corn and apples because it is less costly to do so and (authorities) do not want to recognize that we are being stripped of our lands; this is not only a problem of the countryside but for the people of Chihuahua as well. “

El Barzon activists said their demonstration marked a new campaign to rescue the Chihuahua countryside from decades of ruin. The group also raised the issue of thousands of former homeowners in the border city of Ciudad Juarez who were evicted because of an inability to pay mortgages.

On Wednesday, April 29, a protest connected to the taxi business visited Chihuahua City. Hundreds of taxi drivers paraded through the streets demanding the regulation of so-called “pirate” taxis, or cars without the proper permits, which authorized taxi companies and drivers constantly criticize for unfairly taking away business from long-established services that pay taxes and fees.

Further protests over a variety of matters are likely to ensue on May 1, International Workers Day, which is celebrated as an official holiday in Mexico.

Sources: El Diario de Chihuahua, April 29, 2015. Article by Orlando Chavez. Norte, April 29, 2015. Article by Adriana Esquivel. Lapolaka.com, April 28 and 29, 2015.  Frontenet.com, April 28, 2015. Article by Gustavo Ramos.

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