Sonora Highway Blockades to Continue

Opponents of a controversial aqueduct in northern Mexico plan to escalate their protests, which include intermittent blockades of Mexico Highway 15 running south from the border city of Nogales, Sonora.

“This is the only way that the federal government will know about the unemployment, poverty and migration that the aqueduct will create at the cost of thousands of families that live from agricultural production in the Yaqui Valley,” said Tomas Rojo Valencia, spokesman for the indigenous Yaqui people.

Together with members of the Citizen Movement for Water in Ciudad Obregon and Bacum, the Yaquis oppose a state plan to annually transport 75 million cubic meters of water from the Yaqui Valley to the Sonora state capital of Hermosillo.

The anti-aqueduct activists contend that the project will suck the lifeblood from the land and leave rural residents high and dry. They also accuse the state government of violating laws and ignoring court orders to halt work on the aqueduct. Rojo argued that Hermosillo can satisfy its water needs by other means, such as a desalinization plant.

Javier Hernandez Armenta, Sonora delegate for the federal Secretariat of Transportation and Communications (SCT),  said he would vigorously pursue legal charges related to the highway blockades with the federal attorney general’s office.

“The SCT has an obligation to file a complaint,” Hernandez said. “It’s one of the first actions taken with the purpose of laying down the law.” As a pressure tactic, a protest movement supported by thousands of people has staged periodic highway blockades in the southern part of Sonora during the past two weeks, prompting complaints of commercial delays and economic losses.

Rojo vowed the anti-aqueduct fight will continue. “We are not going to be worn out,” the Yaqui leader said. “(Government) bets on fatigue and disenchantment, that we come to feel like we aren’t going to win the struggle, but we have 520 years struggling. That’s the history of our tribe.”

Sources: La Jornada, June 13, 2013. Article by Ulises Gutierrez Ruelas., June 13, 2013. Article by Eduardo Lopez. El Universal, June 10 and 11, 2011. Articles by Marcelo Beyliss.

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