Isidro Baldenegro is just the latest victim in a trend of violence against environmental activists.
By Kate Wheeling
Isidro Baldenegro, pictured here on the left. (Photo: EPA)
Isidro Baldenegro, a Mexican environmentalist known for his work fighting deforestation and illegal logging, was shot and killed in his home state of Chihuahua, authorities announced on Wednesday. Baldenegro, 51, who witnessed his father’s murder for his own environmental work when he was a child, is the latest victim of a trend of violence against environmental activists.
More environmental leaders were murdered in 2015 than ever before, Jimmy Tobiasreported for Pacific Standard last year (the numbers for 2016 are not yet available). Despite that fact, the plight of murdered environmentalists didn’t garner much international attention until March of 2016, with the brutal and high-profile killing of Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres.Cáceres’ story shared many similarities with the majority of environmental activists who were killed in 2015, Tobias reported, and Beldenegro’s case feels all too familiar as well:
Of the 10 countries with the most murders last year, seven were in Latin America. Brazil alone was home to 50 slayings. Most of the 2015 violence took place in communities where natural resource conflicts around mining, logging, agribusiness, and dam development rage. Forty percent of the dead were indigenous.
Baldenegro, an indigenous activist himself, won the Goldman Prize, a prestigious award for grassroots activists, in 2005 for his work to protect the forests in the western Sierra Madre mountains—the ancestral territory of the Tarahumara people. Baldenegro had left his community in southern Chihuahua, Coloradas de la Virgen, amid growing threats of violence in recent years. He returned to visit the home of an uncle, where a man named Romero Rubio Martínez fired several shots at Baldenegro on Sunday and fled, according to the Chihuahua prosecutor’s office.
This latest murder underscores the danger of defending human and environmental rights in Latin America. And so far, governments have largely failed to bring the people who orchestrate and carry out these environmentalist murders to justice. The Cáceres family is still waiting for the Honduran government to investigate who ordered her killing.