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Structural violence against defenders of the environment in Mexico persists

In 2019, 15 activists are killed and 36 attacks are registered, reports CEMDA


Structural violence against defenders of the environment in Mexico persists

March 17th, 2019

A call is made to the State to protect environmental defenders and prioritize the defense of the environment, land, and territory, as a way to improve the living conditions of the population.

In Mexico, a situation of structural violence against environmental human rights defenders persists, preventing them from freely and safely exercising their right to defend human rights, states the report on the situation of environmental human rights defenders. Done by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA).

Although in terms of the number of attacks, 2019 registers the lowest number in the last six years with 39 attacks against defenders of the rights to land, territory and the environment, it is necessary to highlight that almost a third of the registered cases were homicides, resulting in 15 people killed and attempted homicide. It is highly worrying that homicide continues to appear as one of the main attacks against defenders in our country.

Mexico's human rights context has been characterized by socio-political violence that has worsened since 2006 in the framework of the war on drug trafficking and in which there is a systematic and widespread pattern of serious violations by the Mexican State. This situation worsened as a result of the entry into force of the reform to the energy sector, approved by Congress in December 2013.

Thus, between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2018, 460 cases of attacks on environmental defenders were identified. The years with the highest number of attacks were 2015 and 2016, with 107 and 85 attacks respectively. The energy sector generated the highest number of attacks with 133, which represents 29% of the total. Specifically, the subsector with the most attacks was hydroelectric plants in different parts of the country, with 66 attacks, followed by wind energy with 53.

Regarding the new federal administration that came into office in December 2018, the issue has also not deserved priority attention. In the period from January to December 2019, the homicide was, as in 2018, the main aggression committed against environmental defenders. Of the 39 cases of recorded attacks, 12 of them included homicides as well as an attempted homicide (21.1% of the total). 15 people were killed in these attacks.

In second place of the attacks are threats with 11 cases (19.3% of the total); thirdly criminalization (9 cases) (15.8%), and fourthly intimidation (8 cases) (14%). Physical assault, harassment, defamation, enforced disappearance, trespassing, theft, illegal deprivation of liberty, stigmatization, kidnapping and the improper use of force appear in lesser numbers.

Oaxaca is the entity that registered the highest number of attacks in 2019 with 6. It is followed by Puebla, Morelos, Chiapas and the State of Mexico, each with 4 cases; Chihuahua with 3, and Jalisco, Mexico City, and Zacatecas with 2 cases. In the rest of the federal entities such as Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Nuevo León, Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Sonora and Yucatán, an attack was recorded.


Translator: Martín Caballero

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