According to the findings of the research conducted by Global Witness, there were approximately 200 homicides of environmental and land-defense activists in 2021 alone, with Mexico being the country with the highest number of fatalities. According to a report published by the international non-governmental organization Global Witness, more than 1,700 environmental activists had been killed over the course of the previous decade while “trying to defend their land and resources.”
With 54 deaths recorded in only the year 2021, Mexico tops the list as the most dangerous country in the world for environmentalists. Latin America was the location of the vast majority of fatalities. According to the research, for the past 10 years, one defender has been slain every two days on average. Additionally, the report claims that “[since 2012] 1,733 defenders have been killed trying to protect their land and resources.”
Killings of Mexican activists have progressively increased over the previous three years, from 30 in 2020 to a projected 190 by 2022. This number is projected to rise to 190 in 2022. The total for Colombia, which was 33, was the second highest after the total for Brazil, which was 26. Moreover, forty percent of all killings were committed against indigenous people, despite the fact that they only make up about five percent of the world’s total population.
Campaigners are intimidated through a variety of methods, including surveillance, sexual assault, threats of violence, and criminalization. According to the findings of the paper, the majority of these offenses take place “far away from authority” and “are perpetrated on those with… the least amount of influence.” According to statements made by Global Witness, their report ought to be regarded as a beginning point at the very best. As a result of the fact that many homicides aren’t reported, especially in rural areas and certain countries, “our statistics on killings is likely to be an underestimate.”
There were 27 people who lost their lives as a result of mining conflicts all over the world. The mining sector in Mexico was directly responsible for fifteen of the deaths that occurred in the country. In Brazil, the number of killings of environmental activists has increased to 342, beginning in the year 2012 when Global Witness began documenting the murders of environmental activists. The Amazon region has been the scene of almost all of the homicides that have occurred in Brazil.
“The Amazon has become the backdrop to growing violence and impunity,” states the report that was cited in the previous sentence. The election of Jair Bolsonaro, a politician on the extreme right in Brazil, as president in 2018 has set the stage for a war for land and resources. “Strong agricultural interests lie at the center of Brazil’s export-driven economy.” This year, the Brazilian Amazon has been responsible for the deaths of two journalists from other countries: Dom Phillips, a journalist from the United Kingdom, and Bruno Pereira, an Indigenous scholar from Brazil.
In April of 2021, Sandra Liliana Pea Chocué, the Indigenous governor of southwest Colombia, was killed by gunfire outside her home. She had been a target of an assassination attempt. During her time in Caldono, she and a number of other coca farmers had advocated for their eradication. Outrage was expressed by numerous international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and member states following her passing.
In a similar manner, the environmentalist and municipal political candidate José Santos Isaac Chávez were killed in the state of Jalisco, which is located in western Mexico. The body of the candidate was found in the vehicle just a few days before the election. On his body, there were signs consistent with torture, and the vehicle had been driven off a cliff.
Early findings from investigations conducted by federal authorities in Mexico have led them to the conclusion that municipal authorities are to blame for the murders of forty percent of environmental activists. Only two of the forty-five cases that were investigated resulted in criminal charges being filed.
According to the findings of Global Witness, the biggest contributors to land disputes include activities such as resource extraction, industrial-scale agriculture, logging, and mining. In the report, the Chief Executive Officer of Global Witness, Mike Davis, stated that “activists and communities play a critical role as the first line of defense against ecological collapse and as frontrunners in the effort to avoid it.”