Inside Logistics

Indigenous group blocks U.S.-bound railway in northern Mexico

Yaqui blocking rail line that carries autos, autoparts, grain and other commodities across the border


August 18, 2020
by The Associated Press (APR)

MEXICO CITY – Just as Mexico promised justice for the long-attacked Yaqui Indigenous community, businessmen in the country’s north are complaining that a Yaqui blockade of a key rail line is causing millions of dollars in losses. The rail line in northern Sonora state runs to the U.S. border and carries autos, autoparts, grain and other commodities.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggested the Yaqui group that has been blocking the railway line was being manipulated by politicians or outsiders. They were not among the group members who met with Lopez Obrador earlier this month for the establishment of the Justice Commission for the Yaqui People.

“I feel there has been manipulation. In all these cases, the corrupt politicians get involved,” Lopez Obrador said, adding he was sending the head of the Justice Commission to speak with the dissident Yaquis.

The commission has promised housing, development projects and a greater voice for the impoverished Yaqui communities, but the blockade has put the train-loving president in a tough spot.

Many Yaquis are angry that in the past, gas ducts, water pipelines and railway lines have been run across their territory without consulting them or giving them much benefit from the projects.

The national Confederation of Industrial Chambers, a business group, complained in statement last week that the railway blockade, which started Aug. 5, “is preventing the transport of goods that are needed by the people and inputs that are essential for agriculture, industry, and the country’s imports and exports.” It came after a similar blockade from July 13 to 25.

Mexican ranchers import much of their feed grain from the United States, while Mexican auto factories import parts from the U.S. and export finished vehicles.

Lopez Obrador ruled out using force to break up the blockade, though he has frequently sought to smooth sometimes tense relations with Mexico’s business community.

“In the case of the producers, we are not going to ignore their requests, seeking dialogue and conciliation,” Lopez Obrador said, adding “the easy way out is always the use of force, and that doesn’t help, it hasn’t solved the problem.”

Lopez Obrador has called the Yaquis Mexico’s most persecuted Indigenous group.

Perhaps best known for the mystical and visionary powers ascribed to them by writer Carlos Castaneda, the Yaquis stubbornly fought the Mexican government’s brutal campaign to eliminate the tribe in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But they were largely defeated by 1900, and dictator Porfirio Diaz began moving them off their fertile farmland to less valuable territory or to virtual enslavement on haciendas as far away as eastern Yucatan state.