The Sinaloa Cartel has taken possession of a river deep inside a canyon in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico. This is a desolate place that can only be reached by foot, and the locals have found themselves struggling to get water.
“Here, everything has an owner. Everything, but mainly water.”“El Seor” – a Sinaloa Cartel commander
Thousands of local farmers, many of them Indigenous Raramuri people, lost their harvests during what Mexican officials described as the worst drought in the nation’s history last year. However, the disaster turned into an opportunity for further enrichment for the Sinaloa Cartel.
A New Opportunity for the Sinaloa Cartel
The cartel is stealing water from lakes, rivers, and creeks in the highlands of the northern state of Chihuahua using water trucks, pipelines, and an army of lookouts.
The cartel’s business strategy is two-pronged. It needs water to irrigate its own weed and poppy fields, but it is now also acting as a middleman to supply water to local farmers, hotels, and other companies that have been left without it.
“Water is now a valuable asset for us, and as it becomes more scarce, the more we will fight to make sure we have enough.”El Señor
The creation of a new black market for water
As the drought persisted last year, the cartel reportedly purchased water trucks and hundreds of miles of polyduct, a black plastic pipeline used to transport water from one location to another, in order to pump what little water was available from creeks and lakes toward secret crop fields, according to nearby farmers.
Authorities report that in July, armed individuals took control of a vehicle passing through the Guadalupe municipality in the northern state of Nuevo Leon and stole 1,600 water containers totalling little over 10,000 gallons.
The Sinaloa cartel has occupied the territories that have water sources, setting up watchtowers to guard what has become a significant source of cash for them.
The Sinaloa Cartel is selling water to hotels and other tourism venues
The Urique municipality, which is home to the popular tourist resort of Creel, applied water rationing to residents and businesses during the summer when the drought was at its worst. However, apparently most of the hotels sourced water from the cartel to maintain their operations.
“The wars between armed groups are now for water, and there are people trying to protect their land and their water, and they have died, not only here in Chihuahua but in several other places.”Javier Ávila, a Jesuit priest and director of a human rights non-profit in the Sierra Tarahumara.
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