Things That Matter

Mexico City Is Quickly Running Out Of Water And Residents Are Stealing Water Trucks To Get Water

One of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City is home to about 21 million people – rising to 27 million if you include the surrounding areas. About 20% of Mexico’s population lives there. And it could run out of water in as little as 30 years.

For years, there have been doomsday stories about the city’s impending water crisis. But how does a city with a six-months-long rainy season that sees abundant rainfall face such a severe crisis?

Despite flooding events and heavy rainfall, the city is facing a water shortage.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Given Mexico City’s original geography, its lack of water may seem strange. The city was built on an island surrounded by a large natural lake basin. But when the Spanish colonised Mexico in the 1500s, they dried out the lake to build a bigger city. This means that deep underground, Mexico City has fresh water reservoirs – which the city still depends on for about 40% of its water. In theory these natural aquifers should be replenished by rainfall. It can seep through water containment holes like these pictured here in this deforested patch of land.

But the shortage of water in the city means these natural water reserves are being emptied at a rate faster than they can be filled, especially during months of prolonged drought in the dry season.

“We are exploiting our local aquifers at a very high rate,” says Kramer. “At the same time, we haven’t invested enough resources to have a robust monitoring system. So there’s a lot of uncertainty how the local aquifers work.”

His team suggests that the aquifers could be depleted in 30 to 50 years, if current exploitation trends continue.

Much of this is because of the inefficient and ageing infrastructure of Mexico City’s water networks: some 40% of the water is lost.

Credit: Karrie Khan / NPR

One of the primary forms of mismanagement plaguing water distribution in Mexico City is a gargantuan amount of wastage. According to data from 2010, the city’s water system has an efficiency rate of 56.8%, meaning that a shocking 43.2% of water is lost across leakages or stolen.

In the same report, the government estimated that about 85% of water inefficiencies arose from leakages. It was exactly these leakages that the November megacorte sought to address. And CONAGUA has a plan in place to continue to make improvements to the city’s aqueduct system over the next five to ten years, with the hopes that transportation efficiencies can be substantially improved.

And like most crises, the poorest and most vulnerable residents are affected the most.

Credit: Karrie Khan / NPR

Indeed, throughout Latin America and the developing world, it’s the poor who pay the highest price for water scarcity and mismanagement. Low-income, especially rural families, are the least likely to have regular access to public water systems, meaning they sometimes pay 10 to 20 times more for water in absolute terms than their rich counterparts, according to the UN.

Some are not connected to the city’s water network and must rely on buying it per litre. This is the most expensive way to access water, explains Arnoldo Matus Kramer, the city’s chief resilience officer. “Therefore, we need to revise [how people get water] and understand that access to water is a human right.”

For instance, the Xochimilco community in the city’s southernmost district gets new water twice a week from water trucks. Donkeys then carry it the rest of the way to their homes.

Even farmers no longer have adequate access to the water they need to grow and wash crops. Intense droughts have dried up the water holes and wells they once used.

Much of the city’s water supply is delivered by trucks and these are at risk of cartel intervention.

Delivering water often puts drivers and workers at the wrong end of a gun barrel. Sometimes when the taps run dry in some of the city’s more dangerous neighborhoods, which are often at the heart of Mexico City’s water crisis, desperate residents — or thieves on the make — reroute tanker trucks at gunpoint to meet their needs.

Others illegally tap wells outside the city and fill unregulated tankers themselves. Stolen water of dubious quality can serve neighborhoods in need or be sold at a premium to meet demand, especially during a drought or when the city’s system is under repair.

The water that does reach poor communities is often untreated or of low quality, driving the health problems that make poverty that much more difficult to overcome.

Regionwide, waterborne illness impacts thousands of people every year. In Mexico, tainted water is the number one killer of children between ages 1 and 5.

The public tanker service that provides many residents in Iztapalapa with water to shower, wash dishes and prepare food is offered free of charge. But families that rely on it conserve and reuse much more than their share. While rich neighborhoods in Mexico City consume between 800 and 1,000 liters of water per person per day, poor neighborhoods use just 28 liters, according to a report from the city’s human rights commission.

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

Omar Torres / AFP / Getty Images

In Mexico’s state of Michoacán, cartel violence has spiraled out of control for decades. But in recent years, the problem has become even more pronounced as towns across the state are basically being ran and operated by the ultra-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Everyday citizens are now being forced to fend for themselves amid out of control violence thanks to a lack of protection from police and the armed forces. In one town, a group of women have banded together to help defend their community and families from the increasing threat of violence and they’re making headlines for their bravery.

An all female vigilante group is working to protect their small town from cartel violence.

The Michoacan area of Mexico has gotten so lawless, a band of female vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to protect their friends and family.

The state, which is the world’s largest supplier of avocados and limes, has recently been overrun by the violent Jalisco drug cartel that hail from the neighboring state and so the women are fighting back, according to The Associated Press.

The women carry assault rifles and post roadblocks, often while pregnant or carrying small children with them, to combat the growing homicide levels, which have skyrocketed since 2013. The group doesn’t only use assault weapons and roadblocks to defend their town. They also have a homemade tank – a large pickup truck reinforced with steel plate armor.

For many of the women, the mission is personal.

Many of the women vigilantes in the town of El Terrero have lost sons, brothers or fathers in the fighting. Eufresina Blanco Nava told the AP her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year old lime picker, was kidnapped by presumed Jalisco cartel gunmen in pickup trucks; she has never heard from him since.

Another woman claimed her 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since, saying “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives. We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear. They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.”

And this fight is largely left to the town’s women, as most of its men are being hauled off to work for the cartels (willingly or not).

A battle is raging in Michoacán between rival cartels leading to the surge in violence.

Michoacán has long been dominated by the Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel and the Los Viagras gang, but the CJNG control nearby areas and is determined to increase its area of influence. Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the Grande River from El Terrero, is the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord.

The women vigilantes have been accused by some people of being foot soldiers of the Nueva Familia or Los Viagras but they deny the allegations, although the AP said “they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe.”

The vigilantes also made it clear that they would be very happy if the police and army came to El Terrero and took over the job they are currently doing. But few of them see that as a viable option since they’ve been left to fend for themselves for so long.

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US Prosecutors Allege That Honduran President Hernández Said He Wanted to ‘Shove Drugs Up the Noses of Gringos’

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US Prosecutors Allege That Honduran President Hernández Said He Wanted to ‘Shove Drugs Up the Noses of Gringos’

Photo via Getty

They say the truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, that saying happens to be true. New reports from federal prosecutors in New York have come out that implicate Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández in drug trafficking, embezzlement, and fraud.

For years, Honduras and the United States have publicly touted themselves as partners in global the war on drugs. But it seems that, privately, President Hernández felt differently.

Prosecutors allege that Hernández said that he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos”.

Federal prosecutors say that Hernández “said that he wanted to make the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration think that Honduras was fighting drug trafficking, but that instead he was going to eliminate extradition.”

The allegations against President Hernández are part of a larger drug trafficking case prosecutors have against, Geovanny Fuentes, a prolific Honduran trafficker whom authorities arrested in Miami.

Fuentes alleges that President Hernandez accepted bribes in exchange for protecting a cocaine laboratory and drug shipments headed towards the U.S. They say President Juan Orlando Hernández used his nation’s armed forces to protect huge shipments of cocaine in exchange for hefty bribes.

The case also alleges that Hernandez funneled aid money from the U.S. to non-governmental organizations.

The Honduran president isn’t explicitly named in the documents, but is instead referred to as “co-conspirator 4”. But the documents reference his political position as well as his relationship to his brother, Juan Antonio Hernández, who was also convicted of drug smuggling in 2019.

It’s worth mentioning that the 2019 case against Hernández’s brother also named President Hernández as a co-conspirator. That case alleged that President Hernández had accepted approximately $1 million in bribes from El Chapo.

President Hernández is denying the allegations and claiming that they are retaliations by cartel lords for his hardline stance against drug trafficking.

Recently, his office tweeted out: “The claim that Pres. Hernández supposedly accepted drug money from Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramirez, or gave protection or coordination to drug traffickers is 100% false, and appears to be based on lies of confessed criminals who seek revenge and to reduce their sentences.”

But at home, Hondurans seemed to have lost faith in their president. In fact, many are suspicious of his shady connections and seemingly never-ending scandals. Some Hondurans are reportedly worried that President Hernández may try to “illegally extend” his time in office in order to avoid prosecution by the United States”.

As of now, the prospects of him being prosecuted by the Trump administration are dubious at best.

Hernández and Trump have historically had a cozy relationship based on how fervently the Honduran president supported Trump’s strict immigration policies.

“[Indictment] will probably depend on the political will or political decision of the incoming Biden administration,” said InSight Crime senior investigator Hector Silva to Vice.

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