Fidencio Aldama: Freedom as a Bargaining Chip used by the Government

On Friday, July 14, 2023, our compañero Fidencio Aldama was released from prison by the authorities of the government of Sonora, after having been held hostage for almost seven years – accused of a murder he did not commit – for opposing, along with his community of Loma de Bácum, the construction of the Sonora Gas Pipeline (Gasoducto Sonora).

When Fidencio called us in the early morning hours of July 15 to inform us that he was now free, we were pleased to hear the news, but we were also filled with a deep uncertainty not knowing how and under what conditions he had been released. We say that because we were preparing a direct appeal to be presented to the Supreme Court due to the repeated refusals of the state courts to recognize Fidencio’s innocence.

When Fidencio was notified that he was free, the warden of the prison in Ciudad Obregón held on to his release papers, without explaining why, thus increasing our doubts, which by that time were already numerous. Therefore, we decided to be prudent and not speculate on the conditions of his release in the absence of reliable information.

But the news was not long in coming out, and the next day, local and national media outlets reported his release according to the information they had at the time. Instead of doing their own journalistic and investigative work, they merely recycled the same false information. Some said that the changing of the head of State Prosecutor’s Office opened the door for his release. Others indicated that because the Prosecutor’s Office could not substantiate the allegation, a federal judge ordered his release due to lack of evidence. This was the script the media were given to be constantly recirculated, creating the lie that days later would be disproven.

One factor that was present, months before Fidencio’s release, was the pressure exerted by municipal, state, and federal authorities who visited him in prison. They tried to get him to sign a document authorizing the prison warden to request his release, on the condition that he accept responsibility for the fabricated crime of homicide. However, Fidencio refused, as since the day of his arrest he has maintained his innocence, denying the accusation against him.

Consequently, the authorities did not give up. The visits continued and with them pressure from officials from the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI), the delegate of the federal Ministry of the Interior in Sonora, Máximo Moscoso, as well as state and municipal officials. They even had the nerve to bring his family before him to increase the pressure, so that he would change lawyers and sign a document that supposedly would give him his freedom and recognize his innocence. In short, on Tuesday, July 11, these officials visited Fidencio again in prison with a new document supposedly addressed to the President of the Supreme Court. They even allowed Fidencio to make some changes to the document recognizing his innocence. They stated that once it was presented to the court, he would be granted absolute freedom. It was this document that Fidencio signed.

And so, we arrive at Friday, July 14. Fidencio was released after 9pm, believing that his freedom was absolute and that he was considered innocent. This joy was short lived, because on Thursday, July 20, Fidencio was notified of a ruling issued by the sentencing court that instead of prison he had been given the status of semi-freedom. He was instructed that he had to report to the authorities who will be in charge of supervising the conditions he has to comply with during the remainder of the sentence. It should be clarified that Fidencio did not request this change of status, which was arranged without his consent and without the consequences thereof being explained to him.

What does all this mean? It means that Fidencio was deceived, that the supposed freedom he was granted is not absolute, that it is controlled, that he was not recognized as innocent of the fabricated crime of homicide. Semi-freedom means that Fidencio must report to prison every night at 8pm, where he will be held until 8am the next morning. That he must go to work, then to school, and then return to prison, for the next seven years and three months, the time he has left in his 14-year sentence. In other words, everything is designed so that, in the case of non-compliance, the judge can revoke Fidencio’s freedom, issue a new arrest warrant, and imprison him again. Instead of semi-freedom, we consider this to be a continuation of his imprisonment. So long as Fidencio has to set foot in a prison, he is not free and remains a political prisoner and a hostage of the state.

Why so much eagerness to free Fidencio? The urgency to free our compañero on Friday, July 14, arose from the need of those in charge of implementing the Yaqui Justice Plan in Sonora for his freedom to coincide with the visit of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on July 15 and 16 to supervise works related to the Seri Justice Plan, Irrigation District 1, and the Yaqui Justice Plan, where one of the central demands of the traditional authorities of Loma de Bácum was the freedom of Fidencio Aldama. Everything is clear, they never had the intention of recognizing Fidencio’s innocence. Both the government of Claudia Pavlovich, who fabricated the accusation, and the MORENA government of Alfonso Durazo, have used and continue to use political imprisonment as punishment for those who oppose their political and economic interests, and use freedom as a bargaining chip to continue advancing the megaprojects of foreign companies, the exploitation of natural resources, and the plundering of the water and lands of the Yaqui Tribe.

Finally, we believe that the semi-freedom granted to Fidencio is the safest way for the government of the Fourth Transformation to control dissent and ensure that its works and projects of death are completed. Today, as yesterday, Fidencio continues to be held hostage by the three levels of government.

We hold President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Sonora governor Alfonso Durazo, INPI head Adelfo Regino, Sempra Energy CEO Jeffrey W. Martin, and Sempra Infraestructura’s Presidenta de Grupo, Energías Limpias e Infraestructura Energética, Tania Ortiz Mena responsible for Fidencio’s continued imprisonment and for any threats, harassment, or damage committed against Fidencio or his family.

Fidencio stands firm and we stand firmly beside him. The struggle continues for his immediate release. We ask that you join us in demanding and fighting for it.

Freedom for Fidencio Aldama!
Freedom for all prisoners!
Solidarity with Miguel Peralta!

Fidencio Aldama Support Group
Los Otros Abogadoz Collective
Fidencio Aldama

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