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World News

'We have to comply,' Mexican president says as friction grows over U.S. water pact

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves the national flag after shouting the "Cry of Independence" as Mexico marks its 210th anniversary of independence from Spain, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

(Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday that Mexico would meet its obligations under a water treaty with the United States as a looming deadline threatens to become a diplomatic issue ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.

“We have to comply,” he said during his morning news conference, about a water transfer that this month sparked deadly protests in a drought-hit Mexican state. Lopez Obrador has been working to maintain a good relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump.

His comments came after Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week asking Washington to “ensure enforcement” of Mexico’s treaty obligations.

“Lack of water negatively impacts multiple stakeholders within the Rio Grande Valley, forcing Texas water users to secure alternate sources of water, change crops, and reduce operations,” Abbott wrote.

The treaty, signed in 1944, stipulates that Mexico must deliver 1,750,000 acre-feet of water to the United States over a five-year period. Mexico also gets U.S. water from the Colorado River, under the treaty.

For Mexico to comply with the agreement, it must deliver about one year’s worth of water before the cycle ends on Oct. 24, according to Abbott’s letter.

Lopez Obrador said it was not possible to seek an extension to the deadline.

Two people were killed by the National Guard his month in the drought-hit northern Mexican border state of Chihuahua, after residents occupied the La Boquilla dam, which diverts water to the United States.

The opposition and protests in Chihuahua put Lopez Obrador in a difficult position politically, and despite his commitment to supply the water, he previously said that in the worst case scenario he could turn to Trump for help.

Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; editing by Timothy Gardner

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