dorset chiapas solidarity

September 28, 2015

Indigenous Yaqui Leader Mario Luna Freed From Prison, Vows to Continue Defence of Tribal Water Rights

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:58 am


 Indigenous Yaqui Leader Mario Luna Freed From Prison, Vows to Continue Defence of Tribal Water Rights



Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

La Jornada, 25th September, 2015

Translated by Esther Buddenhagen

Mario Luna, traditional secretary of the indigenous village of Vicam and commissioned by the Yaqui tribe to protect its water, was recently released from the Centre for Social Readaptation [Cereso] Number 2 in Hermosillo, Sonora, the prison in which he was confined for a year and ten days for crimes they could not prove he’d committed. On leaving the prison, he said, “Right now, I urgently need to go to see the community, to involve myself in the work of defending our water, to bring myself up to date on the legal fight, to be with my family,”

Happy, with his two daughters in his arms and surrounded by Yaqui tribal authorities, Mario Luna passed through the prison for the last time on the afternoon of September 23. As he left, he emphasized, “strong, convinced that I should never have trod the floors of the jail, strengthened in my convictions, and bound always to the tribe´s fight against the Independence Aqueduct,”

The aqueduct is the mega-project which has been challenged since the bid for a contract was let and against which the courts granted injunctions that didn’t stop it either. Commissioned by the entire tribe to defend the water of the Yaqui River, Luna gave notice that today, more than ever, he will demand “the expansion of full rights, since now laws are only in writing, and that doesn’t help anything. We have to create a culture in which society in general, as well as the indigenous pueblos, have to demand and to exercise the rights that are theirs.”

Days Behind Bars

In more than a year in prison, Luna learned “the other face of civilization.” This is the face with which they have tried “to deceive us in the name of progress and development,” but which keeps innocents and young people in prison without opportunities.

“What I lived through in the Cereso for all this time leaves me marked forever. I saw how young people between 20 and 25 years old survived, fought, and tried to overcome their limitations inside an adverse society,” he pointed out in a telephone interview.

This last September 11, when he’d been incarcerated for a year, Mario Luna warned in an interview that, “We face even greater plundering of the natural resources of the indigenous pueblos.”

Thus, they have to maintain themselves “alert and united.” The country, he said, “is in convulsions, but there are various fronts armed for the fight” in the face of the exhaustion of the existing political and economic system.

He affirmed that if the government was trying to put down the tribe’s fight against the Independence Aqueduct by imprisoning him, it didn’t work, since the indigenous authorities and the rest of the pueblo continue to defend their water and to demand the territorial integrity of their community.
Viviana Bacasegua and Francisco Delgado accused Luna of illegal deprivation of liberty and theft of a car. There was not then, nor is there now, a valid legal argument since—he pointed out—he didn’t participate in any crime. Within the tribe they applied the internal laws and regulations to someone [Delgado] who said he was Yaqui, and he turned out to be a known political operator of Governor Guillermo Padrés. He insisted that the proceeding had been mishandled and for that reason they couldn’t establish who was responsible. Therefore, he emphasized, he is now free. [Delgado was apprehended by the community after he ran his truck into a demonstration protesting the Aqueduct.]

He followed the news from prison and when he had the chance, he held meetings with tribal authorities. Through them he learned that the Independence Aqueduct continued in operation, the work pushed forward by the PAN government of Guillermo Padres Elías—who is ten days from leaving office—to seize the water of the Yaqui River for themselves and deliver it to the businesses of Hermosillo [Sonora state capital].

The days in prison passed slowly. At times, they were filled with despair. In jail, the forty-four year old social activist and father of a family, recalled “I re-evaluated everything. For a free indigenous person, being in jail is difficult, although we now know that he can succeed.”

In whatever form, he said, “I felt privileged, because they never left me alone.”

Justice Is On the Tribe’s Side

An indefatigable man in defence of water and territory, Luna emphasized that justice is on the side of the tribe. He reaffirmed, “We are going to win,” in spite of the contested aqueduct, “which is already operational, diverting the water from the river towards the industrial zone of Hermosillo. They never gave consideration to connecting it to the domestic network. They did not even construct a water purification plant,” which made it clear, he emphasized, “that the liquid would not be for human consumption, as the government had always said it would be, but for automobile businesses, breweries, and the soft drink industry.”

In the last months of his captivity, the Yaqui leader read “about the history of his people and the most critical stages that are repeated like a vicious circle: how the tribe is divided to make it possible to loot it and to manipulate public opinion against what they call the uncivilized or barbaric.”

Behind bars, Luna dedicated his time to the attention of young people in the detoxification centre which is operated inside the prison. He counselled, supported, and accompanied the prisoners.

“We rescued three generations who succeeded in detoxifying themselves,” he confirmed, proud to have passed his days and nights at their sides, “encouraging comradeship” since, he made clear, “this system has its young people in jails, without schooling, without knowing how to read or write. It is the other face of what they call civilization.”

From the time he entered prison the prisoners and even the attendants welcomed him. They learned through the media that he was an indigenous person who defended water rights and who didn’t have to be there. They lent him clothes and a coat, and they respected him until the end. Today, he insisted, they are all part of his life, together with the community into which he was immediately reintegrated.



September 24, 2015

Mario Luna is free!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:02 pm


Mario Luna is free!!




August 30, 2015

Yaqui Leader Fernando Jiménez Released From Prison Vows to Continue Opposition to Independence Aqueduct

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:24 am


Yaqui Leader Fernando Jiménez Released From Prison Vows to Continue Opposition to Independence Aqueduct

fernando j

Ulises Gutiérrez Ruelas

La Jornada, 29th August, 2015

Hermosillo, Sonora – On Thursday night, Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez, one of the Yaqui leaders opposed to the Independence Aqueduct, was released from the Social Rehabilitation Centre (CERESO) one in Hermosillo. Jiménez had been imprisoned almost a year.

Greeted by members of the tribe and his family, Jiménez Gutiérrez said that during his captivity he was Governor Guillermo Padrés Elías’s political prisoner. He said that he will continue fighting for the Yaquis’ right to water and for the release of his compañero Mario Luna Romero, who remains in CERESO.

Jiménez explained: “This is another example of the arrogance of a political leader who didn’t know how to take the reins of this state. Right now we are not complete, because compañero Mario Luna isn’t here. I was his support in activities for defending the water, when we went to the federal courts, so the government already had me on file.”

11887964_949043011821068_6873389259668987496_nJiménez pointed out that law enforcement authorities coming under the state governor accused him of robbery and kidnapping as a result of his participation, together with other members of the Yaqui Tribe, in the roadblocks at the Vícam community against the extraction of water from the Yaqui River, and its transfer 120 kilometres to the Sonora state capital, Hermosillo, via the Independence Aqueduct, built during the PAN administration of Governor Padrés.

Jiménez explained: “They’re not going to be able to put an end to the cry of the Tribe. We were imprisoned for a while, but others remained outside. We [Mario Luna and I] are just a single cog in the struggle. This is going to continue until the rule of law is respected, and the looting of the water is ended.”

The Yaqui Tribe charges that the aqueduct deprives this Yaqui community of the water needed for agricultural use; thus, condemning the southern Sonora region to poverty and unemployment.

Translated by Jane Brundage



August 27, 2015

“Judge’s Decision to Order Release of Yaqui Leader From Prison Must Be Implemented Now” – Human Rights NGOs

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:54 pm


“Judge’s Decision to Order Release of Yaqui Leader From Prison Must Be Implemented Now” – Human Rights NGOs


José Antonio Román

La Jornada, 26th August 2015

After learning about a new court decision in favour of Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez, leader of the Yaqui tribe imprisoned since September 2014 for opposing construction of the Independence Aqueduct in the state of Sonora, several human rights and civil society organizations demanded that the Mexican State refrain from carrying out other delaying tactics and order his immediate release.

The day before, the Second Appellate Court for Criminal and Administrative Matters in Sonora rejected the appeal lodged by the Public Ministry against the indirect amparo won by Jiménez Gutiérrez, in which the Second District Court ordered the Judge to release the leader.

Fernando Jiménez, human rights activist and spiritual leader of the Yaqui tribe, and Mario Luna, who at that time was spokesman and traditional authority of the village of Vícam, are currently imprisoned. Jiménez was arrested on September 23, 2014, and Luna was arrested on September 11, 2014, by the Sonora state government, which charged both men with illegal deprivation of liberty and robbery—crimes they did not commit.

The NGO’s declared: “We call on the Second Appellate Court for Criminal and Administrative Matters in the state of Sonora, the Second State District Court Judge and the Tenth Judge in Criminal Matters to notify and implement expeditiously the decisions granting the release of Jiménez Gutiérrez. We call on the Mexican State to prevent any criminalization of Fernando or any other person or traditional authority who defends the human rights of the Yaqui tribe.”

Translated by Jane Brundage



July 17, 2015

New Arrest Warrant Issued Against Yaqui Leader Mario Luna

Filed under: Indigenous, Political prisoners, water — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:11 pm


New Arrest Warrant Issued Against Yaqui Leader Mario Luna

   Fernando Jiménez and Mario Luna, representatives of the Yaqui people.  Photo: Benjamin Flores

Fernando Jiménez and Mario Luna, representatives of the Yaqui people. 
Photo: Benjamin Flores

Hermosillo, Sonora – The Third District Criminal Judge, based in Hermosillo, Manuel Palafox Octavio Ocaña, issued a new warrant of arrest against the Yaqui leader Mario Luna* for the crime of illegal deprivation of liberty. The sentence could be four to ten years in prison.Milton Martínez

Proceso 14th July 2015
On June 29, the Tenth District Judge had upheld the amparo [order of protection, appeal] granted to Luna in February of this year [against the original arrest order] and, within 20 days, he was to have been released after nine months of imprisonment in the Social Rehabilitation Centre No. 2, in Hermosillo.

Luna’s lawyer, Francisco Javier Mejia Cisneros, explained that on Monday he received notification of the new arrest warrant, for the alleged deprivation of liberty of Francisco Delgado Romo. Apart from this, Luna will be exonerated of all responsibility for the theft of a car, for which he also had been charged. Mejia Cisneros said:

“The judge has violated the human rights of Mario Luna because he has not studied the case, and the case has a high political content. However, I am convinced that he will be released from prison sooner or later, as there is no evidence to prove his alleged role in a kidnapping and robbery,” the lawyer said.

Mario Luna and Fernando Jimenez were imprisoned on September 11 and 23, respectively, … by the current state government, headed by PAN member Guillermo Padres.

The two spokesmen for the tribe are considered political prisoners, as they were the most visible faces in the defence of the Yaqui territory and water, after the governor decided to transfer the water belonging to the ethnic group to the Sonoran capital through the Independence Aqueduct, the notable work of the governor at a cost of 4 billion pesos.

Lawyer Mejia Cisneros announced that, in response to the warrant, he will meet this week with the rest of the defence team, as well as with Mario Luna to plan their way forward in this process.

“The options that the defence team will raise will be three: present a new appeal, appeal the detention order or ask the court to enter into the merits of the case … Mario will be informed about it and choose the path along with us,” he concluded.

Translated by Reed Brundage

*MV Note: Luna and Fernando Jiménez, Yaqui tribal spokesmen, were arrested in September 2014 on charges of kidnapping and theft committed on June 8, 2013, against Francisco Delgado Romo, another Yaqui tribe member considered by the tribal leaders to be an agent of the state government. The context was a protest closing the Mexico-Nogales Highway because the state government refused to comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court of Justice, which recognized that if the Independence Aqueduct, carrying water from the Yaqui River to the state capital of Hermosillo, violated their rights to a percentage of water from a dam on the river, it had to be cancelled.

Delgado apparently drove a car into the demonstrators. Under the rights of indigenous people to exercise jurisdiction via traditional uses and customs, the protestors detained Delgado and his car. Delgado went missing in August of 2014. He was found dead on Sept. 8, a few days before Luna and Jiménez were arrested. The orders for their arrests had been issued sixteen months previously, but not executed. 



June 10, 2015

Mexico’s Grassroots Caravans for Water, Land, Work and Life

Filed under: water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:01 pm


Mexico’s Grassroots Caravans for Water, Land, Work and Life


By Victor M. Quintana

The three contingents of the Caravan in Defence of Water, of the Land, and of Work and Life converged in Mexico City on May 22. The Yaqui tribe led the caravans, heading out May 11, to traverse the entire country from three routes: northwest, northeast and the south. When they arrived at their destination, their numbers had swelled with hundreds of grassroots activists from many different causes, organizations and locations.

The original demand of the Yaquis sought to defend the water in their dams and their rivers in the face of Sonora Governor Padrés’ Independence Aqueduct project that would drain water from their territory to carry it to the state capital. From there they gathered other regional, sectional and national demands as the caravans made their way through the scarred geography of Mexico.

Water is a pivotal issue that cuts across all regions. In the northwest state of Sonora, the defence of the Yaquis’ water has garnered enormous public sympathy, but there is also the demand to stop the contamination of the Sonora and Vacancia rivers and to repair the damage caused to the environment and to communities.

In Chihuahua, the defence of the Rio Carmen basin and of the submerged aquifers that have existed for thousands of years deep beneath the desert has become a major demand, along with access to potable water for poor families. In a good part of the northeast and the Gulf, citizens are standing up against the use of the sacred liquid to extract gas and petroleum by fracking.

There is also grassroots organization to reject the transfer of the Rio Pánuco for supplying the useless—for the people – aqueduct of Monterrey No. 6, to defend communities and  territories against dams like those of Temacapulín and La Parota, to protect community water sources like those of Tepeaca. On the national level, the Citizens’ Initiative of Water has become the rallying point to confront the Peña administration’s “Korenfeld Law”, which continues in force in spite of the fact that its namesake, former director of the national water commission accused of corruption, is dying politically.

Water has nourished the parched earth so that other protests can sprout. The defence of territory is very important. The Rarámuri stopped the construction at the Creel airport, fought against the hotels’ dumping of sewage into their marvellous ravines, and fought against the invasion of their lands by the Gasoducto El Encino-Topolobampo

The pueblos of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have succeeded in blocking transnationals that push to install more wind parks to generate electricity. Many communities are resisting a new wave of mining that is more destructive that anything known before, as mining companies have already gained concessions to more than half the national territory.

The caravan also stands for life, this especially because so many activists have fallen in the struggle. Ismael Solorio and his wife Manuelita Solis were murdered in Chihuahua in 2012, and just this past Feb. 28, Alberto Almeida was killed. All three were defenders of the Rio Carmen basin.

It is a caravan for democratic freedoms, and so it also demands the immediate freeing of hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience throughout the country. Like Mario Luna Romero and Fernando Jiménez of  the Yaqui tribe, Marco Antonio Suástegui Muñoz of the Council of Ejidos and Comunidades in Opposition to La Parota Dam, Nestora Salgado and José Manuel Mireles Valverde of the self-defence units of Guerrero and Michoacán.

Work, the right to decent, paid work, is another causes represented by the caravan. The day workers of San Quintin, the labour union members of SME, the street vendors of Puebla, among others, have joined to represent their own demands and support the others.

All these banners, all these causes on the move with the caravans, show us that in this phase of demented capitalism, the facts have changed dramatically. If before we spoke of the inhabitants of the impoverished suburbs as “the reserve industrial army”, now we speak of the communities and people where businesses practice extraction of water, gas shale, and mining as “the territorial throw-away army”.

This was the term used by people of the Sierra Tarahumara at the reception of the caravan in the city of Chihuahua–for the mining projects and for the drug traffickers, the people of the communities are simply in the way. In the way of the powerful who want to control the territory; in the way of state-organized collusion with crime; in the way of drug traffickers who want to seed, process and transport drugs. In the way of allowing mining or forest companies to completely deplete forests and subsoil.

For these people it is easier to agree and pay the tariffs to the cartels and to the gangs than to convince the communities to let them strip the land.

In recent years, Mexico has seen the grassroots caravans that cross its vast geography multiply. Caravans for peace, for the re-establishment of the country, against hunger, against feminicides, to denounce forced disappearances.

Why? Because we are a centralized country that concentrates both the generation of and the solutions to problems in the capital. Because the caravan is a long journey into the conscience of public opinion. Because the caravan is a necessary act for communication and popular education in a context in which the powerful media block coverage of all the injustices enumerated above. Because to pass through many pueblos and communities is not only to communicate the demands and protests, but also to construct a new and greater solidarity among the dispossessed, the excluded.

The caravans are an important instrument in the construction from below to above, from the periphery to the centre. The great challenge now is to succeed in keeping the caravans traveling along their alternative routes. So that the accumulation of forces, the broadening of the coming together that they achieve, does not disperse or fade away.

Translation: Esther Buddenhagen, Americas Program

Spanish Original:



May 23, 2015

Yaqui Indigenous Tribe Travels for 11 Days to Defend Water

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:36 am


Yaqui Indigenous Tribe Travels for 11 Days to Defend Water

Tomas Rojo, spokesperson of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico's Supreme Court. | Photo: Clayton Conn

Tomas Rojo, spokesperson of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico’s Supreme Court. | Photo: Clayton Conn

The Yaqui Caravan has travelled the country calling for communities to unite to end the destruction of land, life, water, and air.

The Yaqui indigenous people’s National Caravan for the Defense of Water, Land, Work and Life arrived in Mexico City’s Xochimilco area Thursday night after traveling 11 days to communities across Mexico in order to connect with and bring together different social struggles.

The Caravan will convene a demonstration Friday in Mexico City’s historic Zocalo square to deliver their final message.


“The Xochimilco community, Mexico City, received the different caravans convened by the Yaqui Tribe.”

Addressing a diverse crowd of indigenous peoples, campesinos, human rights defenders, trade unionists, students, and other social organizations in Xochimilco Thursday night, Yaqui Caravan leaders urged Mexican to resist water privatization and the robbing of indigenous peoples natural resources, La Jornada reported.


“We are sad because we have seen many injustices,” the Caravan declared in reference to its cross-country tour. “It is time to struggle all together, the time has come to organize ourselves.”


The call to organize comes after the Caravan heard testimonies from communities fighting against land and resource dispossession that mining and energy companies use divisive strategies to break the resistance of communities in struggle.

“Yaqui Resistance. Defending water defends everyone.”


The Yaqui indigenous tribe in the northern state of Sonora has been struggling for years against the concessions in the Yaqui River, which the indigenous people have relied on for survival for generations. Some 40,000 Yaqui people live in 55 communities in the region.

The caravan calls for an end to all mega-projects, like the Independence Aqueduct, that destroy life, water, land, and air. They also reject neoliberal policy reforms, militarization of the country, and demand a return of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, freedom for political prisoners, and strengthening of food and energy sovereignty.

Earlier this year, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of the controversial Independence Aqueduct project, saying water concessions to the state and federal government to pump water from the river were legal.



May 13, 2015

Mexico’s Yaqui People Launch Defence of Water and Territory

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:56 pm


Mexico’s Yaqui People Launch Defence of Water and Territory

Reina Lourdes, Yaqui activist, affirms the defence of water is the defence of the Yaqui's existence | Photo: Clayton Conn / teleSUR

Reina Lourdes, Yaqui activist, affirms the defence of water is the defence of the Yaqui’s existence | Photo: Clayton Conn / teleSUR

Dozens of social organizations, unions and indigenous groups are backing the defence of Mexico’s natural resources and indigenous peoples’ rights.

The Yaqui indigenous people launched three simultaneous routes this week as part of a National Caravan for the Defence of Water, Land, Work and Life.

The convoy aims to reach the historic Zocalo square in Mexico City on May 22nd.

It will travel through 23 states of Mexico with the goal of bridging different social struggles into a so-called “National Process”.

Specifically the caravan seeks the cancellation of all mega-projects that affect life, water, land and air; the cancellation of recently approved neoliberal structural reforms; an end to the militarization of the country; the presentation alive of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students; the recuperation of food and energy sovereignty; and the freedom of political prisoners.

Caravan participants also underscored the need to maintain an active struggle against the so-called General Water Law that federal lawmakers postponed in March after widespread public outcry denounced it as an attempt to privatize the administration and distribution of the resource.

“With this reform, water won’t be available to anyone, because they increasingly seek to privatize it, over exploiting groundwater and aquifers, and what is left is not even water, it is something highly contaminated,” said caravan participant, Laura Gutierrez of the rights group, Water for All, Water for Life.

For five years the Yaqui people have experienced head-on the effects of such public policy.

In 2010, the Sonora State government approved the Independence Aqueduct project.

The 172 km long mega project transports more than 60 million cubic metres of water per year from the Novillo dam, which is fed by the Yaqui river, to supply the growing urban complexes of Hermosillo, and to supply the large agro-industry in the region.

The project was proposed and initiated by the current Sonora governor, Guillermo Padres, of the centre right National Action Party (PAN). The project openly violates a 1940 presidential decree by then president Lazaro Cardenas, which guarantees that at least 50 percent of the water from the Yaqui River is for the Yaqui people.

The project was initiated violating the indigenous people’s right to an open and free prior consultation. In 2011, the Environment Secretary (SEMARNAT) approved the Environmental Impact Statement and granted permission to begin the project, which also included the use of 50 million cubic meters of water for construction.

Since the start of the project, the Yaqui people have maintained stiff resistance, utilizing protests, roadblocks, and legal injunctions to fight against the aqueduct that they argue is an attack “on our entire identity.”

Sonora State authorities have responded by incarcerating two of the people’s most visible spokesmen, Mario Luna and Fernando Jimenez, both who have received federal court rulings for their freedom.

Although in 2013 Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled against the construction of the project, Sonora State authorities have not responded by dismantling or stopping the pipeline.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:



March 10, 2015

Sonora, Mexico: The New War against the Yaqui

Filed under: Displacement, Indigenous, Political prisoners, Repression, water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:11 am


Sonora, Mexico: The New War against the Yaqui

Leaders of eight Yaqui Tribal villages meeting with Senators on August 8, 2014,  to demand that the transfer of water to Hermosillo, Sonora state capital, via the Independence Aqueduct be stopped.  Photo: María Luisa Severiano

Leaders of eight Yaqui Tribal villages meeting with Senators on August 8, 2014, 
to demand that the transfer of water to Hermosillo, Sonora state capital, via the Independence Aqueduct be stopped. 
Photo: María Luisa Severiano

La Jornada, 25th February, 2015

Adolfo Gilly*

A Failed Sentence, the report of the Civil Mission for Observation of the Consultation of the Yaqui Tribe, which is comprised of more than 25 organizations and networks for the defence of human rights, was presented at the Iberoamerican University on February 25. The report tells of an unending war: the Yaqui war, a history of centuries of dispossession and extermination, only interrupted in the era of General Lázaro Cárdenas, when by presidential decree the territory of the Yaqui Tribe was titled and their right to 50% of the water from the La Angostura Dam was recognized. Today, all of this has been erased.

Back in 1977, at a conference in Cambridge, England, Héctor Aguilar Camín precisely defined this centuries-old process: “The history of the Yaqui tribe from 1876 until 1930 probably should be written as if the Mexican Revolution had never happened. Whether in the era of Porfirio Díaz [1876-1911] or the Revolution, the repression of the Yaqui Tribe in Sonora followed the same historic drive and a similar social context; their settlement, therefore, is the same terrible collection of stories. It concerns a unitary process in which civilization strips the tribe of Sonora’s most fertile land and overcomes their resistance by means of a ruthless war which, in its culminating moments, has as its intention the eradication and extermination of the Tribe.”

This story has been told more than once, most recently, as far as it is known, by Paco Ignacio Taibo II in his recent book: “Yaquis – The history of a people’s war and of genocide in Mexico“. At its release, the author said: “Over the years, while exploring Mexico’s past, I have found despicable and awful stories, but of all of them, this is the worst and at the same time the most extensive.”

Today, the government and the rich people of Sonora, with the silent acquiescence of the federal authorities, are stealing from the Yaqui Tribe the water from their river and, with this water, their right to life.

Sign in La Realidad

Sign in La Realidad

* * *

In 2010 the government of Sonora authorized the construction of the Independence Aqueduct to transfer, from the El Novillo Dam, around 60 million cubic meters [15.9 billion US gallons] of water from the basin of the Yaqui River to the basin of the Sonora River. The Yaqui Tribe was not consulted. The Tribe brought a case in defense of their rights as far as the Supreme Court of Justice. In May of 2013 the First chamber of this court granted an injunction requesting the suspension of works and ordered that a prior consultation with the Yaqui Tribe be carried out before proceeding with the works already started. The government of Sonora did not comply with this decision.

For over a year, without having carried out the consultation, the Independence Aqueduct has been in operation, “producing irreparable damage caused by the continuous extraction of volumes of water from the Yaqui River”, according to the Civil Mission report, and it continues to strip the Yaquis of their water and their right to exist. It was about this policy of eradication and extermination that the Civil Mission for Observation spoke on February 25.

Part of this policy is the current repression. The Mission report states: “Among the most relevant incidents is the imprisonment of the Yaqui tribal representatives who actively and publicly participated in the dialogue process with the federal authorities.”

To imprison the very people involved in the dialogue process is called, in good Spanish, “treachery”, nothing unusual when the aim is “eradication and extermination”.

* * *


Mario Luna Romero is counsel for the Yaqui Tribe, secretary of the traditional authority of Vícam, a village in the State of Sonora and one of the spokespeople for the Tribe in the Independence Aqueduct conflict. Last September 11 at 9:30 a.m., he was apprehended in Obregón City by people dressed in civilian clothing and was then transported to the State of Sonora’s Attorney General’s Office in Obregón. There he was accused of the supposed crimes of “illegal deprivation of liberty” and “motor vehicle theft”. Then he was brought to Prison 2, and it was only at 6:45 p.m. that his defence lawyers were allowed to see him. On September 17, 2014 a formal order for his imprisonment was issued. Up to this day he remains imprisoned in Prison 2 in Hermosillo.

On October 7, 2014 the defence brought an injunction demanding his liberty. It has still not been resolved. In what conditions is Mario Luna Romero, lawyer for the Yaqui Tribe, now being kept, a person who is recognized as spokesperson by the same authorities who today keep him imprisoned? The Civil Mission report says the following in respect of this:

“Mario Luna Romero is locked up in a cement cell measuring 3 by 4 meters [10 by 13 feet], in conditions of extreme hot and cold, located on the floor above a carpenter’s workshop. He is exposed all day to industrial noises produced by the air compressor and by the wood saws. He is held in an area with eight individual cells where 13 other people are locked up in unsanitary conditions of precarious overcrowding, with a high contamination of cockroaches, flies, crickets and mosquitos. He is not given soap or toilet paper. He has limited piped water, which is not drinkable, and which is given in three rations every day for half an hour. This water is used for personal hygiene and sanitary drainage. The same water is used for drinking, which he has to boil. Due to this, since the first days of his imprisonment, he suffers from continuous stomach infections. In addition to this, the stress caused by the continuous noise of the carpentry workshop should be noted.”

The Civil Commission registers more information on the precarious and humiliating conditions in which the authorities of the government of Sonora keep the prisoners in Prison 2, and adds: “It is worth mentioning that, in the last two years, ten inmates at Prison 2 in Hermosillo have committed suicide.”

* * *

Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez, human rights defender and spokesperson for the Yaqui Tribe, also represents his community in the Independence Aqueduct conflict. He was taken into custody on September 23, 2014, and is accused of the same supposed crimes as Mario Luna.
Once in Prison 1 in Hermosillo, the Civil Mission report states: “He was chained for 6 hours to the handrail of the stairs, while he was being assigned a cell, and he was assigned an orange uniform, which no other prisoner wears.”

On November 6 he received a visit from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in Mexico. Up till then they had kept him in this uniform, “locked up in cell 23, which measures 3 by 4 meters, which he is sharing with six other prisoners. He is only allowed to leave during the visits, with his hands and feet chained. He is not allowed access to the grounds and courtyard.” (…)

Even a security guard felt obliged to apologize: “I don’t have anything against you, but orders are orders.”

Maybe the governor of the State of Sonora, Guillermo Padrés Elías, a graduate of the Humanitas University in Mexico City and member of the National Action Party (PAN), can find out and inform us who is issuing these inhumane orders.


* * *

The prison conditions of the representatives of the Yaquis has a dual purpose: on one hand, to break their will to resist and to intimidate and punish their colleagues, family, friends and defenders; on the other hand, to humiliate the Yaqui Tribe, the constant objective of the war against the indigenous people of Mexico and against all organized resistance to dispossession and humiliation.

Add to this the media, who are carrying out a racist campaign against the Yaquis, while the government calls them criminals and has failed to recognize them as indigenous people. This is confirmed in the Civil Mission report: “The government discourse tries to stigmatize the Yaquis as opponents to the aqueduct who do not want to give water to the inhabitants of Hermosillo, with which they are looking to generate rejection and contempt in the public opinion of the Yaquis.”

This war against the indigenous people has taken on a new intensity with the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. In different forms, today it covers the entire national territory. Five Yaqui towns—Vícam, Cócorit, Belem, Bácum y Pótam—have been denouncing “the serious and irreparable damage that is affecting the land, water, health, food and the rights to the flow of the Yaqui River”, which also affects the towns of Rahum, Huirivis y Tórim.

Together, the eight Yaqui towns have a population of approximately 45,000 inhabitants. Is this campaign of “eradication and extermination” proposed so that at last they can take the rest of their land and water?


The disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa, far from being an isolated and accidental episode, forms part of this long war against the indigenous people of Mexico. We must understand this relationship to see the magnitude of the offensive of these times and the crucial importance of the activity of the human rights defence organizations against the indifference or complicity of the party organizations that only live and only work in the world of institutionalized politics. But this is another topic which, today, is not for us to discuss or clarify.

Translated by Louise McDonnell


*Adolfo Atilio Gilly Malvagni (b. 1928) has been a professor of History and Political Science at the School of Social and Political Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) since 1979. His research focuses on globalization and the Zapatista movement. The author of books on the history and politics of Mexico and Latin America, Dr. Gilly obtained a B.A. in Social Science and Law in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his Ph.D. in Latin America Studies at UNAM. He has been a visiting scholar at numerous universities, including Yale, UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, and Columbia.





February 26, 2015

Sonora, Mexico: Indigenous Yaqui Persist in Opposition to Aqueduct

Filed under: Indigenous, water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:15 am


Sonora, Mexico: Indigenous Yaqui Persist in Opposition to Aqueduct

   Tomás Rojo, Paola Pacheco, Alejandra Leyva and Monica Oehler, during the presentation of the report, A Failed Sentence: The Failure of the Mexican Government to Fulfil the Supreme Court Resolution Regarding the Yaqui Tribe's Right to Consultation, held at the Iberoamerican University Photo: Roberto García Ortiz

Tomás Rojo, Paola Pacheco, Alejandra Leyva and Monica Oehler, during the presentation of the report,
A Failed Sentence: The Failure of the Mexican Government to Fulfil the Supreme Court Resolution Regarding the Yaqui Tribe’s Right to Consultation, held at the Iberoamerican University
Photo: Roberto García Ortiz

Arturo Sánchez Jiménez

La Jornada. 24th February, 2015
For the Yaqui tribe, the Independence Aqueduct has been legally defeated. Tomás Rojo, spokesman for the tribe, said the megaproject is still operating because there are levels of government who have refused to obey the law and have violated human rights.

Rojo participated yesterday in the presentation of the report, A Failed Sentence: The Failure of the Mexican Government to Fulfil the Supreme Court Resolution Regarding the Yaqui Tribe’s Right to Consultation, prepared by the Civil Mission for Observation of the Consultation. It was held at the Iberoamerican University.

MV Note: Under the Mexican Constitution, indigenous tribes have a right to prior consultation regarding any governmental or private project that may affect their lands. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that such a consultation had not been held with the Yaqui and needed to be carried out. However, early in 2015, the Court ruled that the completed aqueduct could continue to function while the consultation was being carried out. 

Interviewed at the end of the ceremony, the spokesman said that last Monday a committee of representatives of the Yaqui people met with the head of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Juan José Guerra Abud, to discuss the consultation, mandated by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), which must be held with the tribe regarding the aqueduct. The consultation process was stopped after the detention of indigenous leader, Mario Luna.

While consultation resumed last week at the stage at which it had been interrupted–providing the Yaqui with information about the aqueduct–Rojo said the tribe “has determined that (the authorities) want to end the consultation and only complete the formal procedure in order to accept the environmental impact statement regarding the aqueduct project. We have the suspicion that they do not want to give our consent the value that it should have.”

Therefore, reported Rojo, they will insist on the cancellation of the operation of the aqueduct before the consultation is ended, because a few days ago the opinion of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) was issued, which stated that the diversion of water from the basin of the Sonora Yaqui River had caused irreversible damages to the people who belong to this tribe.

The presentation of this report was lead by Alejandra Leyva, representative of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights; Monica Oehler Toca, from the area of ​​legal strategies of Amnesty International, and Pablo Reyna, director the Advocacy Program at the Iberoamerican University.

Leyva said the Observation Mission found that the right to prior consultation is the main violation of the guarantees of the tribe, as the Supreme Court ordered it to be held in 2013, when construction of the aqueduct had already been completed and it was functioning. She said that when the consultation is finished, the tribe’s decision regarding the aqueduct should be respected, “especially if it is found that there is irreparable damage” to them.

For her part, the representative of Amnesty International said that Mexico “seems to have everything in place regarding respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”, as the government has signed international treaties and laws have been created for this purpose. “But when we review a particular case, such as that of the Yaqui tribe, we see violations of their rights.”

The academic Adolfo Gilly, who for health reasons did not attend the presentation, sent a text in which he questioned whether the objective of the aqueduct is to exterminate the Yaqui.

Translated by Reed Brundage

Latest version of article in Spanish:





February 14, 2015

Mexican Group Denounces Rights Violations against Yaqui Tribe

Filed under: water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:01 pm


Mexican Group Denounces Rights Violations against Yaqui Tribe

Tomas Rojo, spokesman of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico

Tomas Rojo, spokesman of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico’s Supreme Court. | Photo: Clayton Conn / teleSUR

A civil commission made up of rights groups delivered to Mexico’s Supreme Court a report on the state’s violations of the indigenous Yaqui Tribe.

Civil and human rights organizations along with representatives of the indigenous Yaqui Tribe delivered a report documenting what they affirm are a list of human rights violations committed against the northern Mexican native group by Sonora state and federal authorities to Mexico’s Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

According to the Civil Mission of Observation, the 2014-2015 report “exposes the grave human rights violations against the Yaqui Tribe such as the right to prior consultation to the construction, authorization and operation of the Independence Aqueduct.”

Formed in May 2014, the group made up of rights defenders, legal advisors and representatives of the indigenous tribe was tasked to monitor the Sonora state and federal government’s process of transparent and “good-faith” consultation over the state’s plan to construct and operate a 172 km long aqueduct.

The mega-project transports more than 60 million cubic meters of water per year from the Novillo dam, which is fed by the Yaqui River, to supply the growing urban complexes of Hermosillo, Sonora and the agro-industry in the region.

According to the Yaqui and activists, the project openly violates a 1940 presidential decree by then President Lazaro Cardenas, which guarantees that at least 50 percent of the water from the Yaqui River pertains to the Yaqui Tribe.

In May 2013, Mexico’s Supreme Court did announce a judicial ruling in favor of the Yaqui, calling for the suspension of the Aqueduct. However, the tribe and activists denounce that the ruling has not been carried out or implemented.

The tribe also demands the release of two of its spokesmen, Mario Luna and Fernando Jimenez, both detained in late 2014 by Sonora state authorities.

Toma Rojo, current spokesman of the tribe, says the detention of their leaders represents the state’s attempt to criminalize the indigenous group for its struggle to defend its rights.

“The authorities have invented and constructed the charges against Mario and Fernando so as to criminalize our demand for respect of our ‘uses and customs’ and constitutional rights as indigenous people,” said Rojo.

The Yaqui affirm that the Yaqui River and the water resource represents cultural importance as much as it does economic importance for the tribes agricultural activity. They declare that the Aqueduct is an affront on their culture, identity and existence.–20150211-0033.html




December 10, 2014

“They want to disappear the Yaqui Tribe from the Earth and from history.”

Filed under: Displacement, water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:40 pm


“They want to disappear the Yaqui Tribe from the Earth and from history.”

*They take our water and it is ignored by the AGN, denounces a spokesperson

Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 10th December, 2014


Tomás Rojo, spokesperson for the traditional authorities, stated that “They want to disappear the Yaqui tribe from the Earth and from history. With the launch of the Independence Aqueduct in Sonora, they take away the water that belongs to us; moreover, information about the community does not exist in the General Archive of the Nation (AGN).”

On Monday night, at the conference titled “The Pillage of the Water of the Pueblos [pueblo means both people and village]: New Challenges“, organized by Casa Lamm and La Jornada, Tomás Rojo gave a historical account of the tribe, up to the crisis that it is going through with the Independence Aqueduct, by which it is sought to transfer water from the Yaqui River to the Sonora watershed to supply the liquid to Hermosillo [Sonora state capital].

Rojo explained that this work is illegal, “the construction and bidding are challenged in the courts. They do not have authorization from the environmental impact statement. Legally, the aqueduct is defeated, so the government makes use of force and uses the strategy of going after the people, criminalizing and imprisoning those who speak out (two of his colleagues are imprisoned), if it [project] had the legal right it [government] would not use these tools.”

Rojo recalled that “we have lived there for hundreds of years. It is a history of pain and injustice against our people, there is a presidential decree, but we have not enjoyed what rightfully belongs to us.”

He considered that the government “has been so Machiavellian that the [toxic] spills of the Buenavista copper mining company could be deliberate, because if aquifers and reservoirs are contaminated, the only option for supplying water to Hermosillo would be the Independence Aqueduct.”

In turn, Felix Hernández Gamundi, an expert on water issues, said that there is an ongoing campaign of alarm among those at the highest authorities. There is talk of catastrophe. Never is it said that “the industrial situation is more important than the number of hotel rooms and [the water needs] of the population.”

He considered that the available water volume is sufficient, and even more than enough: “the problem is not one of availability, but of the policy of distribution and allocation for different uses.”

Hernández Gamundi argued that it is said that the countryside is the great villain of water use, since for each 100 litres, 70 are for agriculture and they say that it is used badly and contaminates 22 times more than domestic use. But what is not discussed is the impact of industrial use: industry consumes 12 out of every 100 litres, although the contamination that it causes doesn’t compare to that caused by domestic water.

For her part, geologist Maria Fernanda Campa explained that water is used intensively by auto plants and mining. “In the Lerma watershed, there are thousands of factories.”

Note: The Lerma River flows from west of Mexico City through the State of Mexico and forms the border between the state of Michoacán and Guanajuato and Jalisco to the north. It flows into Lake Chapala, south of Guadalajara, a major industrial metropolis. From the lake, the river, named the Rio Grande de Santiago, flows to the Pacific Ocean.

In the Yaqui region, where the aquifers are, the automobile industry is also there. She said most are foreign companies that come to Mexico “to use the water and contaminate.”

Here the indigenous peoples are at a disadvantage, “the state is not at the service of the campesinos. It suggests that farming is less important than industry.”


Translated by Jane Brundage



November 14, 2014

 Yaquis gather for meeting to block Highway 15 in protest against Novillo-Hermosillo aqueduct

Filed under: water — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:14 pm


 Yaquis gather for meeting to block Highway 15 in protest against Novillo-Hermosillo aqueduct


Yaquis gather for meeting to block Highway 15 in protest against Novillo-Hermosillo aqueduct


NOTE: With this article, the CIP Americas Program initiates a series by Tom Barry of the CIP TransBorder Project that takes an in-depth look at the water crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

How the Mexican border state of Sonora is rushing forward with more water-management projects in response to escalating water crisis.

The U.S. West was won by a strategy to capture the natural flow of rivers cutting through the deserts. A vast array of water megaprojects reshaped the West’s landscape and opened these aridlands for population growth and agricultural development.

Wherever the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found rivers running free, the engineering agency constructed dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts. The agricultural empires and booming cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas of the arid West are the offspring of these massive waterworks.

In Mexico, the development of the country’s northern drylands and deserts mirrored the U.S. model of hydraulic manipulation. The post-revolutionary Mexican government launched a modernization plan in the 1930s that dammed region’s rivers, redistributed land into irrigation districts, and transferred water to previously uncultivated plains and deltas.

The problems that stem from hydraulic megaprojects are felt throughout the transborder West – a region that spans North America’s four major deserts (Great Basin, Mohave, Chihuahuan, and Sonoran) and adjacent aridlands. It is a region that William duBuys, author of A Great Aridness, has described as the “North American Southwest.”

The unsustainability of the water-use patterns of these aridlands is reaching crisis proportions as climate change – with its higher temperatures, severe weather events, and prolonged droughts – advances.


Yaquis block Highway 15 at Vicam  in continuing protest against aqueduct

On both sides of the international border, communities and governments are confronting the limits of the region’s surface water and groundwater reserves. Social clashes are erupting as water runs out or is being redistributed.

In the heart of the Sonoran Desert, a bitter water war has been raging for the past four years, dividing the state of Sonora into rival factions.

The Yaqui water war erupted when the state government pushed through the construction of a 155-kilometer aqueduct that transfers water from the Yaqui River west to Hermosillo, the state’s capital and most populous city. The two main protagonists are the state’s executive branch and the Yaqui indigenous communities of the Yaqui River delta. Standing behind them are two rival coalitions of citizens, political parties, municipal governments, agribusiness sectors, and irrigation districts.

Similar tensions are emerging as Governor Guillermo Padrés Elías proceeds with plans for an array of dams, aqueducts, and water treatment and salinization plants – all part of his Sonora SI (Sonora Integrated System) waterworks program.

With federal financing, the governor’s office is, for example, planning the construction of a major new dam across the Mayo River in southeastern Sonora. The resulting reservoir will displace many Guajiríos and threaten the very existence of the diminishing group of indigenous people.

The Yaqui water war is raising concerns about the sustainability of societies that are dependent on dams, aqueducts, and giant irrigation canals. At the same time, the conflict also raises the question: What other options exist to meet rising water demands besides the construction of massive new waterworks that transfer water from water-rich regions to water-poor ones.

Can the intensifying water crises of the transborder West be mitigated or resolved by a new wave of water megaprojects? What are the environmental and social limits of waterworks that effect massive transfers of surface water and groundwater?

The divisiveness and militancy of the Yaqui water war surpass those of other water conflicts in the transborder region. Breaking out in early 2010, Yaqui water war underscores the multitude of social, political, and economic tensions that emerge when traditional water distribution patterns are altered.

As the Yaqui water war evolves, there will surely be lessons for all those living in the increasingly hot and dry transborder West.


Yaqui people stand in forefront of water war that is dividing Sonora



Yaqui governors meet to discuss “No al Novillo” strategies.






Photos by Tom Barry









September 7, 2014

A few updates on mining: Residents Affected by Toxic River Spill in Sonora Block Highways

Filed under: Mining — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:45 pm


A few updates on mining


“Tired of promises,” Residents Affected by Toxic River Spill in Sonora Block Highways


Ulises Gutiérrez Ruelas

La Jornada, 6 September, 2014

Sonora, Mexico: The Sonora River can be seen flowing from Ures, southwest, through the state capital of Hermosillo

Sonora, Mexico: The Sonora River can be seen flowing from Ures, southwest, through the state capital of Hermosillo

Hermosillo, Sonora – This Friday, residents of the Sonora River region blocked two highways to protest Grupo México’s foot-dragging in remedying the damage caused in the region by what federal authorities consider to be the worst toxic spill in the history of mining in Mexico. Inhabitants from the municipality of Ures blocked the highway from that area to Mazocahui; meanwhile residents from the municipalities of Aconchi, Baviácora and Arizpe closed the road from Mazocahui to Cananea [where the mine is located].

Pedro Armando Lugo López, mayor of Aconchi and a participant in the protests, declared: “We demand that Grupo México respond now for the damages it has inflicted on us: millions of pesos in losses in agriculture and livestock. The people do not have enough water; they have no money and no work. It is an emergency.”

Mayor Lugo López added that the people demand that better attention be paid to the emergency in the villages along the Sonora River, where they are living through an economic and social tragedy caused by the toxic spill from the Buenavista del Cobre mine operated by Grupo México in Cananea.

The Mayor explained: “Grupo Mexico must respond now. Their directors must come. They can’t send employees with neither the capacity nor the authorization to negotiate. They come just to listen, but they don’t put forward alternative solutions for the 22,000 people who are suffering from this catastrophe.”

Mayor Lugo López stated that several mayors from the Sonora River region will accompany local residents who are deciding on measures to be taken. These measures could escalate in the coming days to, for example, the closure of streets and highways in the Sonoran capital [Hermosillo].

IMG_2780This Friday, at a meeting of the Emergency Committee attended by officials from the three levels of government, Adolfo García Morales, a representative from the Secretariat of Government Relations [SEGOB], acknowledged that an intense crisis exists in the region and that the institutions have been so worn down by the emergency that they have lost credibility with the people.

García Morales admitted: “Grupo México is at fault and responsible for what happened in the Sonora River; nonetheless, we must recognize that we authorities must provide solutions and help get out from under this problem.”

García Morales acknowledged that the people along the Sonora River are tired not only of dealing with the emergency for nearly a month, but of meetings where promises are made but alternative solutions are not implemented.

In an interview, Francisco Javier Durán Villa, mayor of Baviácora, said that roadblocks are ongoing in communities like Mazocahui, Ures and Aconchi; furthermore, in their demands for an immediate response to the economic crisis set off by the environmental event, citizens have seized the offices of the region’s municipal mayors.

Translated by: by Reed Brundage




Sonora Toxic Spill: Superficial Cleanup Leaves Long-Term Health Risks – Greenpeace

Angélica Encisco L.

La Jornada. 4 September, 2014

@tiocanuto-aug11In the region of Sonora affected by the contamination from the hazardous waste spill of the Buenavista copper mine owned by Grupo México, a superficial cleaning can be seen with the removal of sludge, which is then left by the side of the river. The population is being misinformed and the company is using the remediation as a campaign in its favour, said Sinai Guevara, head of Greenpeace’s toxics campaign.

He asserted that the heavy metals which the spill dumped in the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers, such as copper, arsenic and cadmium, will remain in the sediments of the river channel. Each brings different effects, but in general all are bioaccumulative, as the body cannot eliminate them. They can cause problems including kidney failure, cancer or hormone disruption. He gave as examples that cadmium causes osteoporosis and cyanide can be fatal.

He mentioned that, in a tour made by Greenpeace members in the area over the past week, they learned that the spill last August 6 is the third so far this year. He explained that what they found was that superficial cleaning is being done – mud is cleared from the channels with shovels, but it is set aside in the open air, so it must be verified that this will be removed and not left at the mercy of the elements.

He said that there must be permanent monitoring of the water quality; “when the cleaning starts, the forgetting starts.” He said if the cleaning is only superficial, the possibility remains that the population might suffer illnesses in the long term.

Is also difficult to inform people in the 200 kilometre [124 miles] long area, where damage was caused by the spill of 40 thousand cubic meters of acidified copper sulphate from the impoundment dam of the mine, located in Cananea. The people of the region, he added, said that this is the third time this has happened in the mining facilities so far this year, but as the other cases were of lesser magnitude, they were not reported to the authorities.

Grupo México sent water tank trucks to the area, “bringing a public relations campaign with which they present themselves as the saviours of the community. They aim to make people forget that they are the reason why there is no water, and that there would be no need to bring it in now in water trucks if they hadn’t polluted the water source, the rivers.”

This environmental disaster allows the government’s position on these events to be seen; “it is not enough just to collect fines, because that is selling a right to pollute. The company would pay a maximum of 40 million pesos [US$3 million], equivalent to 0.03 percent of its total profit.”

He added that the Yaqui tribe is also left affected, because, as the El Molinito reservoir is closed due to the pollution, now the only source of water for Hermosillo is the Independence Aqueduct. This affects the tribe’s water supply, regarding which there is a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice. [Note: The Court granted an amparo (injunction) against the continuing construction of the aqueduct, as it takes water from the Yaqui River, to which the tribe has rights. The injunction has not been honoured by authorities and construction continues.

Translated by Amanda Moody



Four Environmental ‘Accidents’ Have Occurred in a Month – Greenpeace

Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 2nd September, 2014

Mexican National Water Commission delivers water to residents of Sonora River Valley after toxic spill from copper mine. Photo: Jesús Ballesteros

Mexican National Water Commission delivers water to residents of Sonora River Valley after toxic spill from copper mine. Photo: Jesús Ballesteros

Within one month, four environmental ‘accidents’ were recorded in Mexico: two oil spills and two of toxic chemicals, the international organization Greenpeace highlighted, also noting that 70 percent of Mexico’s rivers have some degree of contamination.

In an analysis of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government, the environmental organization said that in 20 months, an extractive model regarding natural resources has been consolidated, using the promise of economic growth that has not arrived, and the government has showed its contempt for the environment .

It noted that oil spills occurred in the towns of Cadereyta, Nuevo León, and Huimanguillo, Tabasco, while cyanide was spilled in the town of El Oro, Durango, and 40 million liters [10,566,882 US gallons] of toxic substances were spilled into the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers in Cananea, Sonora, from the Buenavista del Cobre mine, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico.

Greenpeace said that these cases are the tip of the iceberg of the opacity under which the mining industry operates in Mexico, ”where lax laws allow them to pollute, in exchange for paltry fines as compensation for the damage.”

It added that these facts reveal poor watershed management, poor supervision of industries by the National Water Commission (Conagua) and lax laws and penalties. “Pollution of water bodies directly affects the communities living near rivers, lakes and streams, because it causes damage to their health and their food sources.”

It also represents a high cost to society, because the more water is polluted in tributaries, the more expensive it will be it make it drinkable, to bring it to cities and to address the impacts remaining for the affected communities and the environment.

Some substances discharged by industrial activity in the rivers and lakes of the planet are highly toxic and produce direct effects on the health of living beings because they can cause hormonal disruptions, damage to the developing foetus or even cancer.

In Mexico, the discharge of both residential and industrial wastewater into rivers without analysis or pretreatment is a long standing problem. “This situation is compounded by the government’s permissiveness at the federal, state and municipal levels, as well as by the lack of enforcement of the already lax regulations on water usage.”

The international organization said that, despite the Environmental Liability Act which came into force on July 7, 2013 and which establishes damages for offences committed against the environment, a revision of sanctions is needed in order to inhibit pollution by companies.

In the case of Sonora, the fine for Grupo Mexico is ‘laughable’ as the payment imposed by Conagua is 1.2 million pesos [US$91,000] for the damages to 24,000 people in seven municipalities, while the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) applied a penalty of 40 million pesos [US$3 million] plus ‘reparations’, an amount that is unknown.

Added to this, the energy reform has opened another threat to the issue of water, with the use of the technique known as fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for the extraction of shale gas, which means drilling into shale rock by injecting a pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

Translated by Reed Brundage



Mexico Mining Activities Causing At Least 30 Conflicts – Fundar


Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 20 August 2014

 Employees from Grupo México and temporary workers from the state of Sonora at work cleaning up the Sonora y Bacanuchi Rivers in the Municipality of Arizpe Photo: Cuartoscuro

Employees from Grupo México and temporary workers from the state of Sonora at work cleaning up the Sonora y Bacanuchi Rivers in the Municipality of Arizpe
Photo: Cuartoscuro

Currently, there are at least 30 conflicts arising from mining activities in the national territory. Generally, they tend to cause social disputes arising from damage to the soil and the environment; additionally, they violate the rights of indigenous peoples, according to the Fundar organization.

At least five or six mines are located in about ten communities in the Northern Sierra region of the state of Puebla. The Los Cardones project, among others, in Baja California Sur, is a project that the people do not want installed because it is located in a protected area. In Michoacán, waste from the La Mira mine floods villages, stated Sergio Serrano, who is with the Pro San Luis Ecological group.

Serrano explained that in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí there are disputes in villages where mines are located. In addition to the San Xavier Mine in Cerro San Pedro, over-exploitation in the Sierra de Álvarez and in Angangueo, Michoacán, would affect the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

According to the Fundar organization, the current legal framework in Mexico led to the consolidation of large national oligopolies, such as Grupo Mexico, Grupo Peñoles, Grupo Frisco and Altos Hornos de Mexico. This consolidation created conditions for the entry of more than 200 projects to be exploited by foreign, predominantly (70 percent) Canadian, companies.

Serrano explained that the regulatory, labour, environmental and fiscal framework governing the mining industry in Mexico ensures that all profits from mining exploitation remain with the owners of these companies, while the extremely high costs associated with the exploitation itself are transferred to the people.

Serrano said that the Buenavista del Cobre Mine in Cananea, Sonora, which spilled hazardous waste into the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers, should be closed by any one of the three agencies with the authority to do so: Sonora civil protection [agency], the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection, or COFEPRIS [Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risk].

Serrano also mentioned that on May 25 the San Xavier Mine had a cyanide spill on their premises; workers there say that there have always been spills at the mine, but they have been hidden.

*Fundar [Center for Analysis and Investigation A.C.], a non-governmental organization, is a pluralistic, independent and horizontal organization that seeks to move toward substantive democracy.

Translated by Jane Brundage




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