Scores of land campaigners killed in Mexico since 2012
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.