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Members Of Yaqui Community In Sonora Continue Rail, Highway Blockades

Mexico’s president signed an agreement pledging support for Yaqui Indigenous communities in southern Sonora during a recent visit to the state. But protesters say they will continue a rail and highway blockade until their demands are met.

Some members of Yaqui communities in Sonora are refusing to lift blockades until federal, state and local authorities hold a meaningful dialogue with protesters, who say they weren’t party to the agreement President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made with tribal leaders two weeks ago.

During a press conference this week, the president renewed his promises to work with Yaqui protesters in Sonora by sending the head of the national Institute of Indigenous Peoples, Adelfo Regino, to continue negotiations.

"We want justice for the Yaqui people, a people that have been punished, repressed and mistreated. So, we must attend to this matter," López Obrador said, adding that despite private sector complaints that millions of dollars worth of goods bound for the U.S. have been stranded by the demonstrations, he ruled out clearing the blockades by force. Though, he did suggest that “corrupt politicians” are manipulating the situation.

"I feel there has also been manipulation. In all of these cases corrupt politicians get involved, the ones that always take advantage of the situation," he said. "So, yes they have every right to demand justice, but at the same time, there are people who take advantage and, to be clearer, they are the ones who have ended up with the land and the water, and because of their interests in them they create these problems."

Yaqui protesters, however, have said they are continuing to fight for the same things they've been demanding for years: basic services, including health care and education, and to benefit from infrastructure building on their land, including highways, railways, gas lines and fiber optic cables.

Kendal Blust was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.