Photo: Environmental activist Adán Vez Lira was shot to death on April 8, 2020 while he rode his motorcycle in the township of Actopan in the state of Veracruz.

On June 1, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project tweeted this article from Excélsior, a daily newspaper based in Mexico City, that reports:

“So far in the Covid-19 health emergency, 10 activists have been killed in [the states of] Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Sonora.”

The article includes a reference from a member of Semarnat (the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) who stressed the importance of not imposing megaprojects without the free, prior and informed consent of communities:

“For his part, Mayolo Hernández Hernández, a member of the Office of the head of Semarnat, stressed the need not to impose projects on communities, giving way to prior and informed public consultations that also integrate communities into initiatives, not only as labor but by encouraging solidarity economy activities.”

The article also notes that in 2019 there were 810 beneficiaries of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (administered under the Ministry of the Interior, SEGOB), of which 247 are environmental defenders. It also notes that this number has now grown to 1,206 people receiving protection:

“Meanwhile, Aarón Mastache Mondragón, national executive coordinator of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists … recognized that between 2019 and 2020 the number of activists and groups that requested security from the Mexican State grew exponentially, in states like Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Chihuahua.”

“He specified that to date there are 810 beneficiaries of this instrument in the human rights section, of which 247 have to do particularly with the defense of the environment and land.”

“’We received it with 798 beneficiaries, but you see that there was an increase of almost 400 beneficiaries last year, and now that we are in May, we have 100 and I think we are on the same path, greatly increasing the number of beneficiaries, of which of those 1,206, we have that 810 are human rights defenders and 396 journalists’, he detailed.”

According to the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), 21 people were murdered for defending the environment in 2018.

Front Line Defenders has reported that 23 human rights defenders were murdered in Mexico in 2019. CEMDA notes that 15 of those were land defenders.

Other recent newspaper reports have noted that those killed in Mexico in 2020 included: environmentalist Adán Vez Lira (April 8 in Veracruz), lawyer and environmentalist Isaac Medardo Herrera Avilés (late March in Jiutepec in Morelos state), butterfly sanctuary defender Raúl Hernández (January 27 in Michoacán state), butterfly defender Homero Gómez (January 13 in Michoacán state), journalist Jorge Armenta (in May in Sonora state), journalist Victor Fernando Alvarez (April 2 near Acapulco), and journalist Maria Elena Ferral (on March 30 in Papantla, Veracruz).

Over a longer scope of time, CEMDA has also reported that at least 83 Mexican land and environment defenders were murdered between 2012 and 2019, and that hundreds more were threatened, beaten and criminalized. The CEMDA report found that almost one in three attacks since 2012 targeted defenders who were opposing energy projects, especially wind and hydroelectric power.