Defenders of the Earth: Global Analysis 2019

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Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Sin Embargo / SIPAZ

According to the report “Global Analysis 2019”, released this Wednesday from Mexico City, four of the five most dangerous countries to exercise activism are part of the subcontinent, and accumulate 68 percent of cases, Sandra Patargo told Efe , Protection coordinator for the Americas of this NGO.

Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world to defend human and environmental rights since last year it registered more than 200 of the 304 murders documented globally by the NGO Front Line Defenders (FLD) .
“It is the most dangerous region  in the sense that it is the deadliest, it is where the most human rights defenders are killed in the world,” he warned.
The five countries with the most murders of defenders and environmentalists in 2019, according to FLD, were Colombia with 106, the Philippines – the only non-American country on the list – with 43, Honduras with 31, Mexico with 23 and Brazil also with 23.

On May 12, 2020 the mining leader in opposition to the Media Luna company, Óscar Ontiveros Martínez, was assassinated in the town of Real de Limón, municipality of Cocula, executed by an armed group.

Relatives of the victim complained that “the murder of Oscar Ontiveros was for labor and political repression reasons for his activism in the mining Crescent, as it was a key worker in the work stoppage November 2017” . They recalled that for the same reason he was one of the workers fired by the managers of the mining company after the strike movement that ended in early 2018.
They stated that the same paramilitary group allegedly hired by the mining company based in Cocula, Guerrero was the one who murdered in January 2018 Quintín Salgado, another activist opposed to the mining company who led a work stoppage to demand union independence and respect for the rights of tenant farmers . 
“This armed group has positioned itself in the Río Balsas area, in favor of the mining company Media Luna because they receive monetary benefits to control the stoppages and any sign of community organization to denounce what is happening within the company,” they accused.
It should be remembered that, in January 2018, the brothers Víctor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Peña, both workers of the Media Luna company, who were participating in the work stoppage, were also killed.
This week, Media Luna, a subsidiary of Torex Gold Resources led by Canadian Fred Staford, announced that it was about to resume its activities after stopping it due to the health emergency that is causing the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) on April 2. . He added that from May 18 operations will be resumed immediately and by June the mine will be in “routine production”.
AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENT:
Mexico is the deadliest country for environmental defenders, as 75 percent of the 23 killings documented by the NGO were against defenders of nature, Patargo revealed.
“They were directly related (in the fight against) extractive activities of developmental megaprojects,” stressed the regional coordinator during the first presentation in Spanish of the report.
“In the particular case of Mexico, the promise of President (Andrés Manuel) López Obrador to fight against poverty implies investing in extractive projects and development projects,” he explained.
Semarnat promotes an initiative to create a specialized body to protect environmentalists:
In opposing these programs, he added, defenders face enormous risks, as “there are powerful corporate and public officials interests and possible profits at stake.”
In this country, FLD continues to document cases from 2019, Patargo pointed out, so it is possible that the number of 23 murders increases.
This “without obviously counting the cases of this 2020, where we have already documented at least 4 murders of defenders (two in Michoacán, one in Guerrero and one in Ciudad Juárez).”
He added that more than 60 percent of the murders in Mexico were committed with firearms and that investigations were launched in at least 11 cases without results so far.
Homero Gómez González, protector of the Monarch butterfly, was found dead on January 29 after 16 days of searching for him. Photo: Special.
Jesús Peña, deputy representative in Mexico of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the unfortunate fourth place – along with Brazil – that Mexico occupies in the FLD report regarding attacks on human rights defenders.
The environmentalist Isaac Medardo is assassinated in Morelos; The CNDH asks that the case not go unpunished. The murdered environmentalist was working to defend the Los Venados nature reserve, Morelos.
This past March 23, the environmentalist and human rights defender Isaac Medardo was killed outside his home, located in the municipality of Jiutepec, in Morelos.
According to the Deputy Attorney General for the Environment of the Government of the state of Veracruz, a total of ten mining companies have federal permits to settle in Veracruz.
So far, the municipal authorities of Actopan, Alto Lucero, Chiconquiaco, Juchique de Ferrer and Yecuatla are against the mining companies’ installations.
Members of the Veracruzana Assembly of Initiatives and Environmental Defense (Lavida) recently denounced that the mining companies Almaden Minerals and Candelaria Mining have caused damage to springs and wells in Actopan and Alto Lucero.
The organization reported that exploration work in the area diverted the channel of these bodies of water.
Last December, the Environment Secretary of the local government, María del Rocío Pérez, acknowledged that the state of Veracruz is threatened by mining projects by foreign companies.
On that occasion, before local deputies, he said that these are “death projects” that want to be installed near the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant, between the municipalities of Alto Lucero and Actopan.
“These mining activities represent a serious danger of contamination to the soil, water and air of the regions where they are located, becoming a real public health problem, since within their processes they require the use of large amounts of highly toxic chemicals and explosives to dynamite our natural heritage ”, he warned.
The National Human Rights Commission ( CNDH ) asked the Mexin authorities on Tuesday for an “exhaustive investigation” into the murder of the environmentalist and human rights defender Isaac Medardo so that the crime does not remain unpunished.
Armed subjects shot Medardo dead on Monday night when the activist opened the door of his house, located in the municipality of Jiutepec, in Morelos, adjacent to the Mexican capital.
“This national body expresses its condolences to its relatives and calls the authorities to carry out an exhaustive investigation so that there is no impunity,” the CNDH statement said.
He also asked that the investigation take into account the work of Isaac Medardo to clarify if he was assassinated for his activism.
The public body in charge of monitoring respect for human rights in Mexico recalled that the murdered environmentalist was working to defend the Los Venados nature reserve, also in Morelos.
Commission staff went to Jiutepec to “provide accompaniment to family members and to observe the steps taken by the authorities” in the investigations to clarify the murder of Medardo.
On that occasion, before local deputies, he said that these are “death projects” that want to be installed near the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant, between the municipalities of Alto Lucero and Actopan.
“These mining activities represent a serious danger of contamination to the soil, water and air of the regions where they are located, becoming a real public health problem, since within their processes they require the use of large amounts of highly toxic chemicals and explosives to dynamite our natural heritage ”, he warned.
The commission also expressed concern about the increasing number of human rights defenders killed in Mexico, where 51 activists have died since 2006.
“The CNDH reiterates its concern about the lack of adequate mechanisms and strategies of the authorities to prevent, prevent homicides and attacks against human rights defenders,” the agency said.
Adán Vez Lira , defender of the environment, was assassinated in Veracruz . Adán Vez Lira also worked in the defense of La Mancha, in Actopan, Veracruz, and against open-pit mining.
The environmentalist was a member of the La Mancha en Movimiento cooperative, according to local media reportedly located on a road that communicates to the community of La mancha and Palmas de Abajo, his body had bullet wounds.
Adán Vez Lira promoted the Festival of Birds and Wetlands that had the purpose of sensitizing the population about the care of the birds of the region and the mangroves.
The activist’s work focused on protecting the La Mancha protected natural area, in Actopan, Veracruz, where he was also part of the Ecoguías in the area, which has a portion of the beach, a coastal lagoon and mangrove forests.

The Regional Director of the Gulf of Mexico Office of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, Ximena Ramos Pedruza, regretted the murder on her Twitter account and recalled that Adán Vez Lira also worked to defend the territory against open-pit mining.

Data from the Space of Civil Society Organizations indicate that at least 28 human rights defenders in Mexico were killed during 2019.

Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant: Each 1,400-MW reactor cost about US $7 billion and has a lifespan of 60 years.

On that occasion, before local deputies, he said that these are “death projects” that want to be installed near the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant, between the municipalities of Alto Lucero and Actopan.
“These mining activities represent a serious danger of contamination to the soil, water and air of the regions where they are located, becoming a real public health problem, since within their processes they require the use of large amounts of highly toxic chemicals and explosives to dynamite our natural heritage ”, he warned.
According to the Amnesty International organization, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for defenders of land, territory and the environment.
Until September 2019, he had documented the murder of 12 people who defended the land, the territory and the environment.

Homero Gómez, the defender of the Monarch butterfly, is found lifeless after 16 days of searching on Jan 29, 2020

The forestry activist managed a Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Ocampo, Michoacán, a region known for the presence of criminal groups that often bribe or threaten local police to work with them.

Since his disappearance on January 13, Homero Gómez’s family reported that the environmental defender had received threats from these organized crime groups, due to their permanent fight against illegal logging in the area.

Patargo highlighted that “40 % of human rights defenders in the world worked on environmental, land and territory issues and the rights of indigenous peoples.”

Protection mechanisms for activists and journalists in Mexico are insufficient, criticizes the UN:

While in 75% of the cases documented by FLD there is a record of previous threats.

“Impunity continues to be the norm in the region,” said Patargo, as the cases do not reach comprehensive justice where both material and intellectual perpetrators are detained.

Criminalization was one of the most documented attacks in the region, and, like the murders, it occurs mainly against environmentalists, he added.

2019: Murders of defenders and journalists continued across the country, but also impunity
He agreed on the figures, because according to UN records in Mexico, 20 murders of human rights defenders were documented in 2019, and 10 of them had ties to the defense of the territory and the environment.
“The best way of protection is undoubtedly the fight against impunity in which many of the attacks are,” said Peña.
Patargo added that 20 % of murders in Mexico were against women, while internationally the figure was 13 percent.
“Many times this violence (against women) is not visible, but it does not mean that it is not happening,” she said.

NOTE: I recently read a book on mining in Mexico by J. Jesús Lemus , MEXICO A Cielo Abierto de Como El Boom Minero Resquebrajo al Pais
I am working up to a possible book report on it, but in the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend anyone interested in this subject read it. 

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