Recent Murders Bring Attention To Violence In Yaqui Territory In Sonora

By Kendal Blust
Published: Friday, June 25, 2021 - 5:24pm

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search for Tomás Rojo
Fiscalia de Sonora
State and federal authorities join family members of Tomás Rojo and others in the Yaqui community to search for the missing activist early June 2021.

This week, authorities identified the remains of a Yaqui activist who had gone missing in late May in neighboring Sonora, Mexico. His murder and others in recent months have brought greater attention to growing violence in the region.

Yaqui land and water defender Tomás Rojo went missing in late May. This week authorities confirmed he was murdered after finding his body in a hidden grave. Just weeks earlier, fellow leader and activist Luis Urbano was also gunned down.

The killings are part of a string of recent disappearances and murders in the Yaqui community that are causing alarm over violence in the region, and drawing demands from human rights organizations that authorities ensure tribal members’ safety.

"These two murders are clear evidence that violence is out of control," well-known Mexican politician and activist Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas told Sonoran outlet Proyecto Puente after visiting the victim’s families Thursday. "It's very concerning. And it should be very concerning to all authorities, both local and federal."

He said there has still been little information about the murders, even to the families of the two men. But he said he hoped the attention the cases were getting would spur officials to action.

Mexico's representative for the United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also put out a statement Thursday demanding authorities protect the rights of the Yaqui people, and calling for all those responsible for the wave of killings and disappearances to be brought to justice.

The eight Yaqui towns in Sonora are in the southern part of the state, where violent crime has soared to record levels.

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