Mexico: peasant ecologist killed in Guerrero

Juventina Villa Mojica, an environmental activist in the village of Coyuca de Catalán, in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero, was murdered along with her 10-year-old son on Nov. 28, in a mountaintop attack by up to 30 gunmen. Villa had ridden in an all-terrain vehicle with her two children up a mountain to get a cellphone signal, as there are no telephones in the village.  Her seven-year-old daughter survived unharmed. State prosecutors report that the ambush took place despite the presence of 10 state police officers who had been assigned to protect her following death threats on Villa and deadly attacks on her family members. Manuel Olivares Hernández, director of the local Centro Morelos human rights group said Villa was targeted by narco gangs for her efforts to protect the forest. "It's a virgin area with rich forest areas, and the main interest of drug traffickers is cutting down the trees so that once it is deforested they can expand their drug fields," Olivares said.

On Nov. 11, two nephews of Villa, Celso and Fortino Méndez Segura, were killed in an ambush. Her husband Rubén Santana Alonso, was assassinated in February 2011. In 2005, a son of Juventina and Rubén, Jesús Santana Villa, was killed. According to Olivares, some 40 families have been displaced from Coyuca de Catalán due to threats and violence. 

Villa and Santana took up leadership of the Campesino Ecologist Organization of the Sierra de Petatlán (OCESP) after its founders Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera were imprisoned in 1999. OCESP opposes an integrated mafia of timber and narcotics gangs that illegally clears the peasants' communal forest lands to grow opium and marijuana, laundering proceeds from drug sales through timber sales. In 2007, unknown men started a forest fire, burning a large part of the local communal lands, and leaving two youths dead. (APRO, Global Post, Nov. 30; La Jornada GuerreroVanguardia, AP, Nov. 29)