Mexico

Butterfly conservationist disappears in Mexico

The State Human Rights Commission in Mexico’s west-central state of Michoacán is exhorting authorities to intensify their search for a campesino ecologist and advocate for protection of the world-famous monarch butterfly habitat, who has “disappeared.” Homero Gómez González went missing one day after he posted a video of himself on Twitter standing amid a swarm of butterflies at their wintering grounds in the Michoacán highlands. He has long served as administrator of Ejido El Rosario, an agrarian community of the Mazahua indigenous people in Ocampo municipality, which overlaps with the UNESCO-recognized Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve. The Michoacán prosecutor’s office says that 53 police officers from the municipalities of Ocampo and Angangueo have been detained in relation to the disappearance. Family members say Gómez González told authorities that he had received threats from local organized crime networks. (Photo: La Voz de Michoacán)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: UN protests slaying of rights activists

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the killings of human rights defenders in Colombia last year. The statement said the commission is “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019.” The commission asserted that there were between 107 and 120 killings of rights activists in Colombia over the course of the year. It called on the “Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Southeast Asia

Killings of ecological defenders rise in Philippines

Named the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders, the Philippines has become an even deadlier place for activists in 2019, with 46 recorded deaths so far this year, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. The same organization recorded 28 killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018. Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, tallied 30 such killings in the Philippines that year and designated the country the most dangerous in the world for defenders based on sheer number of deaths. Small farmers and agricultural workers accounted for the majority of the deaths recorded by Kalikasan PNE this year with 29, or 63%. This was followed by forest rangers or government officials involved in environmental oversight, at 35%. Next were members of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples at 20%, and finally lawyers and church workers at four percent. (Image of man from the Manobo tribe of Mindanao via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
Cumbre de los Pueblos

Madrid climate talks a total bust

Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Mexico
narcotanks

Corporate cannabis targets bleeding Mexico

There is a discomforting sense that Mexico is perpetually on the eve of cannabis legalization, as the country’s Congress wins a six-month extension from the Supreme Court to pass a law freeing the herb. But foreign capital is already eyeing Mexico’s emergent legal cannabis sector—even amid a terrifying escalation in the bloody cartel wars. When authorities attempted to arrest the son of “Chapo” Guzmán in Culiacán, the troops were surrounded by Cartel gunmen riding in trucks mounted with big machine-guns, and even what appeared to be improvised armored vehicles. The younger Guzmán escaped, and the Sinaloa Cartel proved it has the firepower to effectively challenge the state—at least on its home turf. (Photo via The Drive)

South Asia
Ayodhya

India: high court rules for Hindus in Ayodhya dispute

The Supreme Court of India issued a unanimous ruling in the decades-long Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land case, finding for the Hindus. A small plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, has traditionally been believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of the god Ram. The location is also venerated by Muslims because it was the site of the Babri Masjid, a mosque built in the sixteenth century by the first Mughal emperor Babur. Both religious communities have fought over the site, and the ruling was issued with India’s security forces on high alert. (Photo: रूही via Wikimedia)

The Amazon
Forest Guardian

‘Forest Guardian’ assassinated in Brazilian Amazon

A young indigenous Guajajara leader was murdered in the Brazilian Amazon, raising concerns about escalating violence against forest protectors under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, was shot in the head and killed in an ambush in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, in the northeast state of Maranhão. Paulo was a member of “Guardians of the Forest,” a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara that organize volunteer patrols to fight illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories. (Photo of Paulo Paulino Guajajara via Mongabay)

Africa
Oromo protest

Protests, ethnic violence rock Ethiopia’s Oromia

Nearly 70 people have been killed in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region following a week of unrest and ethnic violence. The eruption began after Jawar Mohammed, prominent advocate for the Oromo people, posted on social media about an imminent attempt on his life by security forces. Supporters surrounded his house and police retreated, but violence quickly spread. The army has now been deployed to put down the protests. Illegal sales of traditional Oromo lands to facilitate urban expansion on the outskirts of Addis Ababa has long been a grievance of the Oromo people. But anger has been unleashed on ethnic minorities in Oromia. In Sebeta, a town within the Oromia Special Zone surrounding the capital, eight members of Gamos people were killed, apparently by a mob of Oromo youth. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as Muslims have also been targeted, with both churches and mosques attacked. (Photo of gathering outside Jawar Mohammed’s home via Twitter)

Mexico
Servín Herrera

Language rights advocate slain in Chihuahua

Enrique Alberto Servín Herrera, a promoter of indigenous language preservation in northern Mexico’s Chihuahua state, was found slain by a blow to the head at his home in the state capital, Chihuahua City. Authorities have made no arrests, nor named a motive in the attack. Servín Herrera headed the Department of Ethnic Cultures & Diversity at the state Secretariat of Culture, and was known for his efforts to help revive and sustain the language of the Tarahumara people. The Sierra Tarahumara, homeland of this indigenous people, has been torn by violence related to control of lands by narco-gangs and timber mafias in recent years. (Photo via La Izquierda Diario)

Southern Cone

Chile: Mapuche join protest mobilization

Leaders of Chile’s Mapuche indigenous people announced their support for the massive protests that are sweeping the country, saying they will press their demands for local autonomy in their traditional territories. Aucán Huilcamánn of the Consejo de Todas las Tierras (Council of All Lands) made the declaration in the city of Temuco, Araucanía region, standing beside Marcelo Catrillanca—father of a young Mapuche man killed by the paramilitary Carabineros last year, an outrage that sparked local protests. Camilo Catrillanca was shot in the back last November while working his lands in the community of Temucuicui. He had been driving his tractor away from an outpost of the Carabineros’ Special Police Operations Group (GOPE)—the same elite force that now being unleashed on protesters in Chile’s cities. Four ex-Carabineros have been arrested in the case. (Photo: Soy Chile)

The Amazon

‘Development’ deal to ‘protect’ (=destroy) Amazon

The US and Brazil announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to “protect biodiversity” by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. As if to drive home how cynical all this is, just days later Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in his address to the UN General Assembly unabashedly asserted his right to go on destroying the Amazon, saying it is a “fallacy” to describe the Amazon as the heritage of humanity and a “misconception” that its forests are the lungs of the world. (Image via Veganist)

Central America
Diana Isabel Hernández

Environmental defender slain in Guatemala

Environmental activist Diana Isabel Hernández was slain in an attack by armed men on a religious procession in her community of Monte Gloria,  in the Guatemalan department of Suchitepéquez. Hernández was a leader of the Mujeres Madre Tierra Association, a group linked to the local Catholic church that worked to protect forests and promote organic agriculture. The Alianza por la Solidaridad human rights network denounced the slaying as a “cowardly murder that adds to the many cases of attacks on leaders who work for the common good.” The network counts 16 social leaders assassinated in Guatemala last year—compared to three in 2017. (Photo via InfoLibre)