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Report: 200 Environmental Activists Killed Worldwide in 2021

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MEXICO CITY — Some 200 land and environmental activists were killed around the world in 2021, including some 54 in Mexico, which was named the deadliest country in the annual report by the non-governmental organization Global Witness.

More than three-quarters of the murders took place in Latin America, where Colombia, Brazil and Nicaragua also recorded double-digit death figures.

It was the third consecutive year of increases for Mexico and a jump of 30 for those activists killed in 2020.

“Most of these crimes occur in places that are far from power and are inflicted on those with, in many ways, the least amount of power,” the report says.

Global Witness considers its report to be a baseline, noting that “our data on murders is likely to be an underestimate, given that many murders go unreported, particularly in rural areas and in specific countries.”

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The victims died fighting against the exploitation of resources and in territorial disputes. Conflicts over mining were linked to 27 deaths worldwide, the most for any sector.

Fifteen of those mining-related murders occurred in Mexico.

In the western state of Jalisco, Mexico, José Santos Isaac Chávez was assassinated in April 2021. He was running for local office and had made opposition to a long-running mine a central part of his campaign. Days before the elections, he was found dead in his car, which had been driven off a cliff and his body showed evidence of torture. Armed men dragged him out of his house and took him away in his own vehicle.

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In April 2021, Sandra Liliana Peña Chocué, indigenous governor of southwestern Colombia, who had fought for the eradication of coca crops in Caldono, Cauca, was killed near her home by armed men. Her murder was condemned by the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and foreign governments.

Overall, the killings of environmental activists in Colombia dropped in 2021 to 33 from 65 the year before. The Philippines also saw fewer such murders in 2021, 19 compared to 30 in 2020.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all eight recorded victims were killed inside the Virunga National Park.

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In November, park ranger brigade chief Etienne Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya, 48, was killed when 100 heavily armed men, believed to be former members of the M23 rebel group, attacked a patrol post near the village of Bukima in North Kivu province. in the Congo.

Virunga Park is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas, but armed groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, the Mai-Mai and the M23 regularly vie for control. of the natural resources of eastern Congo. .

Global Witness urged governments to enforce laws that protect activists and require the informed consent of indigenous groups, while holding companies accountable in their global operations and having zero tolerance for attacks on human rights defenders. the earth.

“Activists and communities play a crucial role as the first line of defense against ecological collapse, as well as pioneering the campaign to prevent it,” Global Witness Executive Director Mike Davis said in the report.

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