Water protector slain in Baja California

Oscar Eyraud Adams, a community activist in the Mexican border town of Tecate, Baja California, was assassinated in an attack on his home by what local accounts described as an "armed commando" Sept. 24. The following day, his brother-in-law, Óscar Sotelo, was gunned down in a convenience store along the Tecate-Ensenada highway. Adams had been a prominent advocate for the Kumiai (also rendered Kumeyaay) indigenous people in their struggle for irrigation concessions for their remote communities in outlying rural areas of Tecate and Ensenada municipalities, which have been denied by the National Water Commission (ConAgua). Friends and supporters of Adams are blaming the assassinations on the "narco-state" and demanding that authorities investigate them as political crimes.

Adams was the cousin of Tecate's mayor, Zulema Adams Pereyra, who has been in a public feud with Baja California's governor, Jaime Bonilla Valdez, although they are both with the ruling left-populist Morena coalition. In July, the mayor filed a formal complaint with Mexico's Fiscalía General accusing Bonilla of threats and harassment. (Zeta Tijuana, Mexico News Daily, InfoBae, Sept. 26; Zeta Tijuana, Sept. 25; Zeta Tijuana, Sept. 23; Web24 News, LatinUS, Border Report, July 7)

Although now serving with the left-wing Morena and reportedly close to Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Bonilla previously lived across the border in Otay Mesa, Calif., where he held dual citizenship and was a prominent figure in the local Republican party. He also served as a board member of the Otay Water District. In 2003, he was implicated in a corruption scandal concerning bribes for irrigation concessions. (San Diego Union Tribune via Wayback Machine, Sept. 16, 2003)

The traditional lands of the Kumeyaay are bisected by the US-Mexico border, and they have been involved in fights for their water rights either side of the line. (Kumeyaay.com, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Plan)