Scores of land campaigner­s killed in Mex­ico since 2012

The Guardian - - World - Nina Lakhani

At least 83 Mex­i­can land and en­vi­ron­ment de­fend­ers were mur­dered be­tween 2012 and 2019, while hun­dreds more were threat­ened, beaten or crim­i­nalised, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Mex­i­can Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­men­tal Rights (Cemed).

Latin Amer­ica is the most dan­ger­ous con­ti­nent in the world to de­fend en­vi­ron­men­tal, land and hu­man rights, es­pe­cially Brazil, Colom­bia,

Mex­ico, Hon­duras and Gu­atemala. In Mex­ico, tar­geted vi­o­lence has taken hold since the ill-fated war on drugs was launched in 2006.

En­ergy changes in 2013 ex­ac­er­bated the sit­u­a­tion, and scores of re­new­able en­ergy mega-projects have been im­posed on ru­ral and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties with­out ad­e­quate con­sul­ta­tion or com­pen­sa­tion.

Al­most one in three at­tacks since 2012 tar­geted de­fend­ers op­pos­ing en­ergy projects, es­pe­cially wind and hy­dro­elec­tric power, ac­cord­ing to Cemed, which tracks at­tacks against com­mu­ni­ties op­pos­ing projects that threaten forests, wa­ter sources and land rights.

“The data shows per­sis­tent struc­tural vi­o­lence against de­fend­ers of en­vi­ron­men­tal rights in our coun­try, which pre­vents them hav­ing the free­dom and se­cu­rity to ex­er­cise their right to de­fend hu­man rights,” said a spokesper­son for Cemed.

The vi­o­lence is spread across Mex­ico, but the south­ern state of Oax­aca has faced most at­tacks over the past eight years.

One of the coun­try’s poor­est states with the high­est pro­por­tion of indige­nous peo­ple, Oax­aca is rich in min­er­als, rivers, forests and nat­u­ral gas.

The vi­o­lence has been par­tic­u­larly marked in Te­huan­te­pec – a nar­row but bio­di­verse land mass be­tween the Gulf of Mex­ico and the Pa­cific Ocean,

where 28 mega wind farms now gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity.

Over­all, the num­ber of at­tacks in 2019 was the low­est since 2012. But 15 de­fend­ers were mur­dered and at least 25 oth­ers were threat­ened, ha­rassed or sub­jected to smear cam­paigns.

The mur­der vic­tims in­cluded the indige­nous Tarahu­mara de­fender Otilia Martínez Cruz and her son, Gregorio Cha­parro, who were shot dead in May 2019 – a year after a fam­ily mem­ber, Julián Car­rillo, was killed.

More than a dozen Tarahu­mara de­fend­ers have been killed for try­ing to stop the il­le­gal de­for­esta­tion of the Sierra Madre, in north­ern Mex­ico. The forests have long been tar­geted by il­le­gal log­gers abet­ted by cor­rupt of­fi­cials and landown­ers. In 2019, state of­fi­cials were re­spon­si­ble for 40% of in­ci­dents reg­is­tered by Cemed.

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