Rio Yaqui Pipeline: Corporate exploitation of Indigenous land

Pipeline in Yaqui territory.
Pipeline in Yaqui territory. Photo: Manny Castro. Used with permission.

The Agua Prieta Pipeline is a cross border pipeline that is a project of Sempra energy Corporation. It is being built on the Rio Yaqui which is sacred to the  Yaqui people, a tribe that resides in part of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. For as long as the Yaqui people have lived in the region where they have always dwelled, the Rio Yaqui has been a vital part of life sustenance and is of ceremonial importance, its water being used in the Deer Dance or “La Danza del Venado.”  This exploitation of Yaqui land and water rights has been met with resistance.

Worth over $400 million dollars, the pipeline is designed to carry liquid natural gas across Yaqui territories. Yaqui tribal members were asked as early as 2015 what their stance was on the action beforehand, and almost all said no. Regardless of the tribe’s stance, the company moved in with their plans later that year and were met with Yaqui Resistance almost immediately. (personal communication with  a relative of a Yaqui Tribal Member.)

The Tribe removed and sabotaged a 25-foot portion of the pipeline nearest to their territory and left its torn pipes as a symbol of opposition towards the acts of both the corporations and the joint force of the Mexican government and U.S.- backed corporations. What was at first a non-violent protest by Yaqui demonstrators ended up an armed confrontation between the Yaquis and the hired security made up of paid cartel members and right-wing mercenaries. These mercenaries  had raided a Yaqui encampment protesting the pipeline, killing one of the protestors (Alliance For Global Justice)

To further add to the list of terrorist acts done by the Sempra Company, a Yaqui woman was kidnapped and held for ransom by company security. The victim, Anabela Carlon Flores ,was on her way to a discussion panel  on October 21, 2018 with her husband. The couple were stopped by armed men and held for ransom. Flores is a Yaqui land rights lawyer and was held to create fear within the resistance movement. She was later freed but her husband is still in captivity. Flores, although fearful for her husband’s life, remains a strong opponent of  the actions of the corporation. Resistance continues and is being met with severe violence; there are charred remains of people’s vehicles and homes all throughout the land.

President Donald Trump has continued to show support for the Sempra Energy Corporation, even praising this company that violates human rights on the White House official webpage. Regardless of the human casualties and environmental destruction, the United States corporate sectors are unified behind this project.

While the tribe resists this pipeline project in Yaqui territory, new laws are being propagated by numerous states criminalizing the protesting of pipelines under the guise of “protecting critical infrastructure.”

For instance, in Texas, where a part of this pipeline would reach, pipeline resistance is now a third degree felony. The people’s right to fight for a clean environment is being violated to benefit corporate interests. 

This is one of many struggles faced abroad and in the United States where corporations ravage and destroy a community to achieve dominance and protect profit over human lives. All progressive and revolutionary people must fight the corporations responsible for so much destruction. We must unite and bring upon us new ways to sustain all life, and put all people’s needs and safety over everthing else. The struggle over the Rio Yaqui one example; there is a whole world that needs saving from fossil fuel corporatism. We must fight each pipeline in solidarity with Indigenous nations before the dark cloud of tyranny and greed consumes us all. 

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