Land, territory and environmental defenders face extreme levels of risk throughout Mexico. In fact, Mexico is towards the top of the list among countries with the most attacks against environmental defenders. Despite progress at the legislative level, such as the constitutional reform of human rights in 2011, or the law that creates the Federal Protection Mechanism for defenders and journalists, the situation has worsened, putting defenders at greater risk and increasing their vulnerability in general. Since 2011, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed a continuous annual increase in attacks, placing Chihuahua, Guerrero and Oaxaca as the most dangerous states for human rights defenders. In just under twenty-four hours at the end of October, each of those states suffered the loss of a human rights defender. See below.
Indigenous Defender of Land and Territory Shot to Death in Chihuahua
Julián Carrillo Martinez, a human rights defender and member of the Raramuri indigenous community in Coloradas de la Virgen, in the state of Chihuahua, was shot to death on the evening of October 24. Members of the Mexican human rights organization Sierra Madre Alliance, which is accompanied by Peace Brigades International, learned that Carrillo had been pursued by assassins since October 23 and had fled to a hillside. His son later contacted the Sierra Madre Alliance to let them know he had heard gunfire and feared that his father had been found and shot. An hour later, Julián Carrillo’s body was discovered.
His family had been heavily targeted since 2016. Two of his nephews, one son, and his son-in-law all were murdered in separate incidents over the past two years. Carrillo himself had been in hiding, only returning to his community because his daughter had died in childbirth. In 2014, Julián Carrillo and three other members of the community, as well as two members of the Sierra Madre Alliance, received protection measures from the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders, provided by the Mexican government. Last year, the Protection Mechanism was supposed to reassess their risk level, in order to grant appropriate measures. The Protection Mechanism, however, reportedly failed to do so. The indigenous peoples of Coloradas de la Virgen have taken legal action to obtain recognition as the legitimate owners of their ancestral land, including a portion of forest that borders that states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa. Julián Carrillo had been defending the forest against timber operations the community considered illegal.
Indigenous Defender of Land and Territory Killed in the State of Oaxaca
On the afternoon of October 25, Noel Castillo Aguilar, a forty-four-year-old member of the Indigenous Peoples Defense Committee (CODEDI), was fired on by unidentified assailants as he was headed to his house in a taxi. The gunmen then beat him violently. He died around 1:00 PM. His father, community leader and legendary defender of territory Leodegario Castillo Zarate, had received threats in the weeks prior to the murder of son. Noel Castillo Aguilar was a defender of the beaches and the Copalita River in Barra de la Cruz, Santiago Astata, Santo Domingo Tehuantepec. His murder marks the fifth murder this year of members of CODEDI. Three members of the organization have been arbitrarily detained by state police this year, and three have had their homes broken into and computers and documents stolen, while other items of value were left behind. According to Consorcio Oaxaca, an organization accompanied by PBI, Oaxaca is experiencing a profound human rights crisis. To date this year at least five defenders have been extrajudicially executed, five have been forcibly disappeared, eight homes have been raided, nine defenders have been arbitrarily detained, and one case of torture has been reported.
Journalist Killed in Guerrero
Gabriel Soriano was killed on October 24 when unidentified men surrounded his work vehicle and opened fire as he was returning home from work on his usual route. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest. The shells of two nine-millimeter bullets were found near the car. Soriano was a radio producer who covered music, especially Hip Hop music, in Guerrero. During the six years of Enrique Pena Nieto’s government, ten female journalists and fifty-one male journalists have been assassinated. Four have been disappeared. The vast majority of those crimes—99.8 percent, according to reports—have not been successfully prosecuted.
See PBI Mexico’s website for more news and analysis of current events in Mexico.