As many as 50,000 angry farmers throughout Mexico blocked highways and an international bridge along the Texas-Mexico border on July 17 in protest of the government of President Andres Manuel López Obrador.
The Mexican farmers’ protest spread over 42 locations in some 23 Mexican states throughout the country, including an eight-hour blockage of the commercial truck lane in both directions on the Mexican side of the Progreso–Nuevo Progreso International Bridge.
The Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge is located on the U.S.-Mexico border, around 30 miles from McAllen, Texas. It connects the cities of Progreso, Texas, and Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, for pedestrian, vehicle and commercial traffic. As many as 300 trucks a day can pass over the bridge.
The farmers’ protest stems from anger that the national budget produced by Obrador cut financial aid to rural farmers by as much as 20 percent. In some locations, rural farmers also asked for fertilizer and other goods that they were promised by the government.
“We only ask that the budget be exercised, that we are heard and attended,” said Manuel Guerrero Sánchez, president of the Comité Nacional Sistema Producto Oleaginosas (CONASIPRO), the organization leading the protests and blockades.
CONASIPRO is a national organization that operates throughout Mexico, representing 12 state oilseed committees and 13 oil plant industries, including industrialists, public institutions and suppliers of agricultural products and services.
“[Agricultural] producers are not buzzards as they called us this morning. That’s a lack of respect,” Sánchez said to the media on July 17. “We are producers of more than five hectares, which we provide food to the country. We ask for respect and understanding, since this is the only way we can be heard.”
The blockade on the international bridge in Nuevo Progreso was lifted around 5:30 p.m. on July 17, after Obrador and officials with CONASIPRO came to a tentative agreement, including agreeing to release 63 million pesos ($3.31 million) in program funding to the rural farmers.
Obrador and CONASIPRO agreed to conduct more meetings around July 25 to discuss more concerns that rural farmers have about the government’s spending cuts.
Officials with CONASIPRO have said if they are not satisfied with their negotiations with Obrador, they will commence another countrywide blockade of highways, bridges and possibly airports on August 17.
During his morning press conference on July 17, Obrador said that the Mexican government would not be pressured into ceding to the farmer union’s demands.
“We’re not going to give in at all. None of this ‘We’ll take a highway and reach an agreement as long as you give us so many tons of fertilizer.’ Save your time. That’s not accepted anymore,” Obrador said.
Obrador also said that farmers who are protesting for a valid reason will be listened to, but for those “who are seeking to benefit unfairly or steal, the corruption is over.”
The July 17 road blockade snarled pedestrian and truck traffic for hours in the states of México, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Morelos, Jalisco, Nayarit, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua and Campeche.
Federal highways that were blocked included the Mexico City-Querétaro highway, the La Tinaja-Acayucan highway in Veracruz, the San Luis Potosí-Matehuala highway in San Luis Potosí, and the Ciudad Victoria-Matamoros highway in Tamaulipas.