Internationally-known Mexican environmentalist and forest defender Felipe Arreaga was killed Sept. 16, while driving his ATV in Petatlan, Guerrero. The longtime campesino leader was struck by a mini-bus and died a few hours later in a hospital in nearby Zihuatanejo. Although Petatlan is the site of a military base, it lacks civilian medical facilities capable of handling serious injuries. The driver of the mini-bus fled the scene of the crash, and many circumstances of the incident are still unclear.
The 60-year-old Arreaga first rose to international prominence during the 1990s as one of the leaders of a movement to halt over-logging in the Sierra Madre. The campesino environmentalists were persecuted by logging interests and authorities, and Arreaga himself was eventually jailed on flimsy murder charges before being acquitted in 2005. In recent years, Arreaga and his wife, Celsa Valdovinos, dedicated their efforts to reforesting the Sierra Madres and promoting organic agriculture.
While still in jail, Arreaga was awarded the Chico Mendes prize by the Sierra Club. In 2006, Mexico’s Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources also recognized Arreaga’s efforts. Arreaga was buried in his beloved Sierra Madre on Sept. 17. As one Mexican reporter wrote, “The cloudy sky seemed to indicate that even nature was saddened by his passing.”
Frontera NorteSur, Sept. 18