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Justice for Indigenous land and water defenders killed in Mexico

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Photo by Peace Brigades International.

In January 2017, two Indigenous land defenders, Isidro Baldenegro Lóperz and Juan Ontiveros Ramos, were killed in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Both Lóperz and Ramos were Rarámuri or Tarahumara, an Indigenous people in Chihuahua.

Lóperz was focused on stopping illegal logging in the municipality of Guadalupe and Calvo, while Ramos was defending his ancestral territory of Choréachi, which is also situated in the same municipality.

According to the Dublin-based group Front Line Defenders, "Juan Ontiveros Ramos was dedicated to combating illegal logging and land grabbing for illicit crop harvesting on the ancestral lands of the Rarámuri people in the Sierra Tarahumara."

The Guadalupe and Calvo municipality is situated in the Sierra Tarahumara, a mountain range in Chihuahua where logging and mining without the free, prior, and informed consent are critical issues of concern.

In October 2018, Julián Carrillo Martínes, another Rarámuri land and water defender, was killed in the same municipality. He was an outspoken defender of Indigenous rights, an opponent of deforestation, and concerned about the impacts of mining.

Just prior to his murder, Amnesty International had "observed a community assembly in which Julián Carrillo expressed opposition to [the granting of a mining concession on their territory] because of its environmental and social impact and because it could lead to a rise in violence in the area."

Martínes was also a member of the Alianza Sierra Madre AC (ASMAC), "a civil society organization that accompanies the Indigenous peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara in the exercise of their human and collective rights, the conservation and restoration of their natural and cultural assets, for the well-being of their communities."

In January of this year, Amnesty International released its report that focuses on the death of Julián Carrillo and what needs to be done.

Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project was at that media conference to accompany the speaker from ASMAC and has supported the broader call for an investigation into the murder of Julián Carrillo.

According to Amnesty International, "In 2014, following its assessment of the serious threats that Julián Carrillo faced, the Ministry of the Interior's Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists granted him protection measures. [...]The measures -- which included satellite phones, panic buttons and police escorts when he travelled -- were not enough to prevent him being killed."

PBI-Mexico also supports the call by Amnesty International and numerous allies that the Mexican government implement a comprehensive policy to improve the security situation for land and water, human rights, and Indigenous rights defenders so that they can carry out their work without risk of threats, harassment or death.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer

Image: Peace Brigades International

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