Cover Image: Fidencio Aldama (at the far right) together with musicians in the prison of Ciudad Obregon, Sonora.
After a legal process plagued by irregularities, October 27 will mark six years in prison for Indigenous Yaqui, Fidencio Aldama. His ongoing imprisonment was denounced by the Fidencio Aldama Support Group and Los Otros Abo398gadoz who through a communique accused the “anti-Indigenous racism inherent to the Mexican State” for the imprisonment of the political prisoner.
In April of 2018, Aldama was sentenced to fifteen years and six months, accused of the death of Cruz Buitimea Piña in Loma de Bácum, Sonora. Now, after a long appeal process, the courts have confirmed Fidencio Aldama’s conviction, but reduced his sentence to fourteen years.
“We remember that Fidencio’s arrest and continued imprisonment is the result of a coordinated effort between the Mexican State and SEMPRA Energy (via its affiliate in Mexico, IEnova) to impose a natural gas pipeline through Yaqui territory,” detailed the Fidencio Aldama Support Group through the communique released on Thursday October 20.
In 2016, the Yaqui community of Loma de Bácum rejected the imposition of the “Gasoducto Sonora” pipeline project. The response from the state and SEMPRA Energy was violent repression. On October 21, 2016, an attack was carried out against the Yaqui community. A week later Fidencio Aldama was arrested, “unjustly accused,” as the organizations explain.
Los Otros Abogadoz, who are providing legal defense for Fidencio Aldama, announced that on June 17, 2022, a year and nine months after having filed the appeal, the Third Collegiate Court in the State of Sonora resolved the appeal, upholding Fidencio’s conviction.
Afterwards, on August 24, 2022, a ruling was released reducing his sentence to fourteen years in prison. “Faced with this new situation, we cannot remain immobile waiting for Fidencio to serve out his unjust fourteen-year sentence. We must continue insisting and resisting until we can snatch back his freedom,” announced his legal team.
Los Otros Abogadoz explained that they plan to file a new appeal in the hopes that the Supreme Court of the Nation will be the one to resolve the case: “This case is important because it involves an Indigenous person belonging to the Yaqui Tribe who is being criminalized and punished, sentenced to prison for defending his territory by opposing the construction of a natural gas pipeline by an international company. This pipeline project puts at risk the lives of the inhabitants of Loma de Bácum, the pueblo where Fidencio lived with his family when he was detained.”
Mutual Benefits Between the State and Organized Crime
For their part, the Fidencio Aldama Support Group contextualized the situation in Loma de Bácum, explaining that since Aldama’s imprisonment it has only worsened.
On July 14, 2021, ten people were disappeared in the Yaqui community while organizing for their traditional festivities in the pueblo. After months of search efforts led by Yaqui women and families of the disappeared, seven of their remains were found and identified. “These disappearances exemplify how organized crime, the state, and corporations mutually benefit from one another, planting terror in Indigenous communities to disarticulate community organization and consolidate projects of capital accumulation and state control,” denounced the group.
At the end of 2021, the Federal Government presented a policy package denominated the “Justice Plan” for the Yaqui Tribe, which the group argues reinforces “the colonial mission of making the Yaqui people and Yaqui territory productive for global capitalism.”
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According to the group, this is evident in actions like that of the current Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, who recently proposed the designation of a special economic zone in Yaqui territory, destined to facilitate manufacturing industries with cheap Indigenous labor.
In light of the new sentence, the group points to the following people as responsible for the imprisonment of Fidencio Aldama, along with the repression and cooptation that continues in Yaqui Territory: the CEO of Sempra Energy, Jeffrey M. Martin; the CEO of IEnova, Tania Mena Ortiz; the General Director of the CFE, Manuel Bartlett Diaz; the Governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo; and the President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
In the communique they also hold responsible the different judges, magistrates, secretaries, judicial officials, etc. “who have maintained this legal charade against Fidencio Aldama.” Lastly, they indicate that in Fidencio’s legal process, they will likely continue facing “the discrimination of the judicial authorities, who have up until this moment punished the struggle and resistance of a land defender. We will not rest until Fidencio is free, to hug his children and mother who impatiently wait for him.”