Fidencio Aldama Legal Update

Fidencio Aldama Pérez is an Indigenous Yaqui land defender originally from the town of Loma de Guamuchil in the Mexican state of Sonora. He has lived in Loma de Bácum since 2009, after marrying his wife who is from there. Fidencio has been imprisoned at the Centro de Reinsercion Social in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora since October 27, 2016, sentenced to 15 years and 6 months for the alleged homicide of Cruz Buitimea Piñas.

On November 1, 2012, the US-based transnational energy company Sempra Energy signed a contract with the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission to build an 835-kilometer natural gas pipeline through the state of Sonora meant to export natural gas from the United States into Mexico. Consequently, on August 29, 2013, the Sonora pipeline, a project of Infraestructura Energetica Nova (IEnova), a Mexican subsidiary of Sempra Energy, obtained a permit from the Energy Regulatory Commission to build the Guaymas-El Oro section of the pipeline, which crosses through Yaqui territory.

Within that context, on May 28, 2015, during an assembly held in Loma de Bácum, the community decided not to grant permission to any person, company, or entity to enter their territory for the purpose of carrying out activities related to the Guaymas-El Oro section of the pipeline project.

As the resistance against the pipeline began, so too did the legal battle. On April 26, 2016, the Seventh District Court in Ciudad Obregón ordered the suspension of the Guaymas-El Oro pipeline citing the lack of consent from the tribe. However, the pipeline company IEnova didn’t abide by that judicial ruling and continued with the construction of the project.

On October 21, 2016, while members of the community gathered in an assembly, an armed group entered Loma de Bácum with the intention of overthrowing the traditional community authorities and imposing others in favor of the gas pipeline. This attack left one dead, several people injured, and twelve vehicles destroyed by fire. On the day of the attack, Fidencio was serving as part of the community’s traditional guard. A week later on October 27, 2016, Fidencio was detained, taken to judicial authorities of the state of Sonora, and accused of the homicide, beginning a legal process full of contradictions and irregularities. On April 6, 2018, Fidencio was declared guilty of the homicide of Cruz Buitimea Piñas, and sentenced to 15 years and 6 months in prison. He was also hit with a fine of $1200 dollars, another fine of $2500 dollars for moral damages, and another fine for material damage of a still unspecified amount.

Since Fidencio’s basic rights were violated during the legal process, an appeal was filed against the decision of the First Instance Court, with file number 22/2018, and heard by the Second Mixed Court of Sonora. On November 19, the Second Mixed Court confirmed the original conviction issued by the First Instance Court, considering both the crime and Fidencio’s guilt to be proven. With this, the court again ignored the contradictions, irregularities, and inconsistencies that were evident throughout Fidencio’s legal process.

Continuing with the legal battle, on October 20, 2020, another appeal with number 167/2020 was filed against the sentence upheld by the Second Mixed Court, this time at the Fifth Circuit of the Third Collegiate Court in Criminal and Administrative Matters. The appeal was assigned to Judge Luz Elba de la Torre Orozco on August 12, 2021, who is now in charge of ruling on the appeal, and potentially freeing Fidencio Aldama. This decision should be issued in the coming days.

It is clear that Fidencio’s case is another example of the injustices committed against defenders of land and life, who confront megaprojects endorsed by the Mexican state, where transnational companies are always at the forefront, and when their interests are affected, they use the same modus operandi to continue these projects of dispossession: repression and imprisonment of the opposition.

Finally, it should be emphasized that the case of Fidencio Aldama is a direct attack on Loma de Bácum and the Yaqui tribe, a tribe which has its own forms of organizing, decision making, justice, and self-defense. The actions of the state in allowing the construction of the gas pipeline without properly consulting the tribe, as well as the state’s law enforcement agencies in attacking these forms of organization, exemplify the essence of this entire ordeal: an attack of the Mexican state on the autonomy and self-determination of the Yaqui tribe.

Free Fidencio Aldama!

February 2022

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