Human rights and environment defenders in Mexico are simultaneously faced with two emergencies: health and human rights
On April 8, 2020, in the midst of Mexico’s COVID19 lockdown, Adán Vez Lira, an environmental activist, was murdered. Adán and his community opposed the development of mining projects in the municipality of Actopan, as they worried these would pollute the lagoons and swamps nearby. These diverse ecosystems are home to over 300 species and are regarded as sacred by the local community.
Adán, 54, had spent over 30 years on his environmental defence efforts and had led multiple projects to promote eco-friendly tourism in the municipality. His killing is a cold reminder that the ongoing health crisis has not diminished the risks faced by human rights defenders.
Adan’s case is one in dozens of human rights defenders who have been murdered in recent years in the country. Latin America is particularly dangerous for the defence of human rights. Mexico is no exception. Human rights defenders, including those protecting the environment, advocating for migrant and refugee communities, and involved in the search for missing persons, face numerous risks. In 2019, local NGOs recorded the killing of at least 21 defenders. Dozens more were subject to intimidation, legal harassment, arbitrary detention, defamation campaigns, digital attacks and physical aggression.
Mexican authorities have not only failed to protect human rights defenders but have systematically criminalized and targeted defenders.
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