Mexico: Tarahumara forest defender assassinated

Isidro Baldenegro López, a Tarahumara indigenous activist in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state who fought for the preservation of forest lands, was assassinated last week, in an attack near the home of a family member in the pueblo of Coloradas de la Virgen, Guadalupe y Calvo municipality. Although the Chihuahua state prosecutor has not officially registered a homicide, Baldenegro's relatives confirmed that he had been slain and buried in the village. The assailants have not been identified, but his relatives say they believe the gunmen were part of the same network that has threatened and slain other local residents for defending the pueblo's forest lands and opposing illegal timber felling.

Baldenegro was imprisoned in 2003, on what human rights groups called trumped-up arms and narcotics charges in retaliation for his efforts to defend communal indigenous lands in the Sierra Tarahumara. The arrest came after he led blockades of logging trucks on a road through the Sierra. Immediately upon his release the following year, after serving 15 months, he was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. He continued to carry on his work against the outlaw timber mafias that illegally operate on communal lands, often in a nexus with local narco-gangs.  (Apro, Jan. 17)