Photo: Yaqui Indians
Mexico’s federal government has achieved a breakthrough in a dispute between the Yaqui Indians and the government of the northern state of Sonora, securing an agreement from the Yaquis to end to a nine-month road-blocking protest over construction of an aqueduct.
In a statement Friday, the Government Secretariat said President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration would ensure full compliance with court rulings pertaining to the Independence Aqueduct, which the Indians have opposed on the argument that it will leave them without water.
The Yaquis in 2009 began their struggle against the 152-kilometer (95-mile) aqueduct, which was built to transport water from the Yaqui River to the booming manufacturing hub of Hermosillo, Sonora’s capital, and began operating in April 2013.
The protest measures have included blocking a section of the Mexico City-Nogales federal highway since May, 28, 2013.
The Yaquis alleged the aqueduct, built at a cost of 4 billion pesos (some $300 million), would pose a serious threat to their way of life.
On Feb. 23, 2011, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat authorized construction of the Independence Aqueduct without respecting indigenous peoples’ right to be consulted about projects affecting their resources, the Supreme Court ruled last year in ordering that the consultation process be held.
The roadblock is to be lifted before March 1 after the Indians received assurances during a meeting in Sonora that the federal government would respect an agreement that was signed on Jan. 21 at the Government Secretariat’s headquarters in Mexico City.
That pact guarantees that the water extracted from the Yaqui River will only be used for human consumption in Hermosillo and that the rights of the region’s Yaqui and peasant communities will be respected.