In stories picked up by New Mexico State University's Frontera NorteSur border news service (http://www.nmsu.edu/~frontera/), El Diario (Ciudad Juarez) and El Norte (Monterrey) reported that the Mexican government's spraying of an alleged marijuana field in the state of Chihuahua killed one child and sickened 300 villagers.
A delegation from the remote Tarahumara indigenous village of Chorowi (a 24-hour walk from the nearest road, according to map notations) came down from the mountains to file a complaint about the incident with the Chihuahua State Human Rights Office (CEDH) on July 31st, although the incident supposedly occurred on July 12th.
Villagers told the human rights office that agents of the Federal Judicial Police, the dreaded "federales," sprayed an herbicide believed to be paraquat on a marijuana field.
In their sworn testimony to CEDH, villagers said two groups of federales, one on the ground and one in the air, arrived in the area on July 12th. The villagers accused the federales of destroying homes and sowing "panic and terror" among the town's population, as well as spraying the herbicide. The villagers said they were given no warning that the herbicide was to be used and that the police undertook no safety measures.
According to a CEDH spokesman, "the herbicides fell over the inhabitants of Chorowi, over their houses, their belongings and their animals. According to their report, this has caused them a series of injuries and problems, including skin sores and sores on their scalps, damage to their vision, airways and mucous membranes."
Two-year old Armida Muela Loera fell sick after the spraying and died two days later, villagers complained.
Villagers also reported that the spraying killed livestock such as chicken and pigs.
The Attorney General's office belatedly responded to the villagers' charges by telling reporters that the claims could be part of a plot by narcotraffickers to discredit law enforcement, El Norte reported on Thursday.
The governor of Chihuahua, Patricio Martinez, in his weekly radio address said that a study of the alleged paraquat spraying is now under way in Chorowi. He also said that he has yet to see an autopsy or medical report for the child's death.
The governor described the Chorowi area as thick with marijuana and further claimed that a large part of the community is involving in growing it.
In a jab at the federales, Gov. Martinez noted that they seem much more adept at marijuana spraying than catching murder suspects in Ciudad Juarez. The governor has recently and repeatedly said the federales should leave the state because they fail to solve murders and keep getting themselves arrested.
The indigenous Tarahumara people have increasingly been victimized by both drug traffickers and drug warriors as US-backed Mexican efforts to disrupt the regional marijuana trade have pushed growers onto Tahahumara lands. As was the case in Chorowi on July 12th, the federales soon follow.