Mexico Arrests Gang Member Accused of Killing Indigenous Chief | Crime News

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The body of Tomas Rojo Valencia, an indigenous Yaqui leader, was found on June 17, half buried, his head smashed.

Prosecutors in the border state of Sonora, northern Mexico, said they arrested a suspect in the murder of indigenous rights leader Yaqui who raised funds for his community during roadblocks.

Tomas Rojo Valencia disappeared on May 27 amid tensions caused by months of periodic blockades imposed by the Yaqui to protest against gas pipes, water pipes and railroads that crossed their territory without consulting them.

Late Monday, Sonora’s attorney general said that a 26-year-old man Francisco Hiram, also known as “El Morocho”, had been arrested for manslaughter and was being held while the investigation continues.

Sonora State Prosecutor Claudia Contreras said Rojo Valencia attempted to set up a toll booth on a main highway that crosses Yaqui territory in order to raise funds for its indigenous community.

She said it was this money that was behind the murder of Rojo Valencia.

Criminal groups “were interested in the illegal benefits of imposing highway tolls,” Contreras said. “Tomas Rojo was pushing for the installation of a toll booth in order to put order in the toll taxation process, for the benefit of the Yaqui people. “

The prosecutor said Rojo Valencia’s body was found on June 17. He was half buried in a rural area near the town of Yaqui in Vicam with his head smashed, apparently by a nearby hammer.

Contreras said police were brought to the gang after discovering a gun repair sweatshop apparently linked to the criminal group.

Businessmen and truckers complained that Yaqui roadblocks seriously affect the flow of raw materials and export goods and said protesters were sometimes abusive or demanded money to allow them to pass. . In February, a truck driver drove through a Yaqui roadblock, beating and killing a member of the group.

Trailer trucks participate in a caravan to protest Yaqui indigenous roadblocks in Sonora state, Monterrey, Mexico [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

Mexico has had a huge problem in recent years with protest groups taking control of existing toll booths or putting up roadblocks and forcing motorists to continue. In 2020, industry officials said as many as two dozen toll plazas across the country were taken over by such protests on any given day and estimated the groups likely made around $ 150 million per year.

At the end of 2020, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against highway takeovers, sending the National Guard and the police to eliminate many of them, but apparently not including the Yaqui roadblocks.

Lopez Obrador made it his special project to bring justice to the Yaquis, whom he described as the most persecuted indigenous group in Mexico.

The Yaquis stubbornly fought the Mexican government’s brutal campaign to wipe out the tribe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But they were largely defeated in 1900, and dictator Porfirio Diaz began to displace them from their land. fertile agriculture to less valuable land or virtual enslavement on haciendas as far as the Far Eastern state of Yucatan.

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