Mexico: environmental activist murdered

As of June 6 Mexican authorities had still not arrested four suspects in the May 15 murder of environmental activist Aldo Zamora, despite pressure from Greenpeace Mexico, human rights groups and federal legislators. Four assailants ambushed Zamora and his 16-year-old brother Misael Zamora around 6:30 pm as they were driving in Santa Lucia, Ocuilan municipality, in Mexico state, killing Aldo and wounding Misael. Misael was able to identify two of the killers as people who had been engaged in illegal woodcutting in the area.

The two brothers had worked with Greenpeace since June 2006 collecting data for a study on the impact of illegal woodcutting on the woods in their home village of San Juan Atzingo, also in Ocuilan municipality. Their father, Idelfonso Baldomero Zamora, is the San Juan Atzingo’s president for communal goods. Since 1998 Idelfonso Zamora has led a struggle against illegal woodcutting in the local forests, which are protected because they form part of the Laguna de Zempoala National Park, located in Mexico and Morelos states. According to Greenpeace, illegal cutting has deforested 250 of the park’s 4,790 hectares and has affected more than 3,000 hectares.

Mexico state attorney general Abel Villicana Estrada confirmed on May 23 that two of the murderers had been identified and located. He also confirmed that they belonged to a gang of illegal cutters who were at liberty because in 2006 federal fourth district judge Gerardo Eduardo Garcia had quashed warrants for the arrests of 46 of the gang’s members. The killers would be arrested “very soon,” Villicana said.

On May 30 the Permanent Committee of the federal Congress called on the federal and state governments to detain the killers and on the judicial branch to investigate the actions of Judge Garcia. On June 4 Mexico state authorities announced that they would provide security for Idelfonso Zamora, who had been receiving death threats. On the same day Greenpeace and the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Prodh) marked World Environment Day by denouncing the federal and state governments’ “clear incapacity” to act in the murder and Mexico’s “lack of environmental justice.” (La Jornada, May 18, 24, 30; Notimex, June 5; EFE, June 5)

On June 6 Mexico state governor Enrique Pena Nieto said that monitoring the state’s forests was “complicated” and the Mexican army would have to take over, since state police couldn’t handle the job. Meanwhile, Attorney General Villicana claimed that the state had not yet arrested the killers because of delays in procedures to get warrants for searching the houses where they were thought to be hiding. According to some sources, the killers are in a community at Mexico state’s border with Morelos and Guerrero. Ocuilan mayor Felix Alberto Linares, a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said he had information that they fled to the US and were in the state of Georgia. (LJ, June 6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 10

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