Mexico’s Prosecutor’s Office to determine if remains are those of water defender Tomás Rojo  


June 21, 2021. Translated by Shantal Montserrat Lopez Victoria

DNA tests are being run to determine if remains found in the Sonora desert are that of Tomás Rojo, Mexican indigenous leader who led the fight for water against the state of Sonora.

Back in 2012, Tomás Rojo Valencia along with Mario Luna fought against the construction of the Independencia Aqueduct.  The state government wanted to take water from the Yaqui River basin to the capital Hermosillo, where more than 300,000 people receive their water supply.

Rojo, spokesman of the Yaqui tribe, was politically persecuted during the six-year term of former governor Guillermo Padrés (2009-2015). At that time, the indigenous people were protesting against the exploitation of their natural resources that would impact their social, political and economic development.

The main concern for the indigenous communities was that while the state government extracted water from the Yaqui River to supply the two most populated cities in Sonora, it failed to guarantee the vital water supply to the eight towns inhabited by the tribe.

Due to their opposition to the project, both Mario Luna and Rojo Valencia were charged with several crimes. Rojo had to hide in tribe territory, while Luna was arrested as a political prisoner until Guillermo Padrés’ six-year term ended in 2015, amidst dozens of corruption scandals.

On May 27, Rojo’s daughter went to the public prosecutor’s office to report that her father never returned from his morning walk, which he usually went on everyday in the Yaqui community of Vícam, one of the eight towns inhabited by the tribe between the municipalities of Guaymas and Cajeme.

Rojo’s daughter “says that her father is a member of the Yaqui ethnic group, and is dedicated to carrying out projects for the benefit of the tribe,” according to the missing person’s report.

Security and law enforcement agencies had begun the search in the area when a local resident found a badly decayed corpse with clothing that matches the description of an indigenous leader last Thursday.