By KELIN DILLON
According to a new report released by international organization Global Witness, Mexico was the country with the most murdered environmental activists in 2021, when the nation bore witness to 54 documented environmentalist deaths.
Mexico leads the global pack of environmentalist murders by a large margin, with Colombia – the second most deadly country for environmentalists in 2021 – only documenting 33 of these deaths in the same time period, followed by Brazil with 26 deaths and the Philippines with 19 deaths.
The country has reportedly seen 154 environmental activists killed across the last decade, with 131 of those deaths concentrated between 2017 and 2022.
Mexico’s environmentalist murders have overwhelmingly been committed against indigenous peoples, particularly located in the states of Sonora and Oaxaca, where there are ongoing land and mining conflicts between the government, organized crime and the regions’ native peoples.
The Global Witness report detailed the case of indigenous Mexican lawyer and leader José Santos Isaac Chávez, who was murdered in 2021 after protesting the development of a mining project in the Mexican sate of Jalisco.
“He was the only candidate who openly opposed the Peña Colorada mine and his operations. They found him dead in his car, which had been driven off a cliff. His body showed evidence of torture,” read the Global Witness statement.
“The Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel has developed an interest in illegal mining,” continued Global Witness. “The group imposes its conditions and violence against the indigenous community with total impunity and without an adequate response from the Mexican state.”
The report likewise touched on the disappearance of environmental activists in Mexico, revealing that there were 19 documented missing-persons cases of environmentalists during the course of 2021. This includes the case of Irma Galindo Barrios, who went missing in Oaxaca in October 2021 in a disappearance Global Witness alleges was perpetrated by corrupt government officials.
“Since 2018, she has faced intimidation by public officials, as well as harassment, persecution, smear campaigns and death threats as a result of her defense of the forests,” said the report. “This defense included filing formal complaints with the Secretariat of the Environment.”
Global Witness went on to urge the Mexican government to hold perpetrators accountable and to establish guidelines for implementing the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty granting right of information to environmental matters, to create better avenues to achieve environmental justice.
“While the Escazú Agreement was ratified by Mexico in January 2021 and entered into force in April, there is little state capacity or budget to support defenders, reducing the likelihood that individuals and communities will gain access to justice,” concluded the organization.