Defenders in danger – El Sol de México

By Valentina Andrea Berdiales

Activists who defend the environment also defend Human Rights. Around the world, environmental activists face great enemies, threats and dangers. They not only protect the earth, whose protection is vital for their survival and ours, but they also fight for Human Rights and freedom. Access to a decent life, food, water, health and many other services can never be guaranteed unless greater care for nature and its natural resources begins.

Environmental defenders in Latin America are being violated, threatened and murdered. These activists are people and groups that fight for Human Rights related to the environment, which includes the protection of nature, which is highly exploited by large companies, and the lands that belong to indigenous communities that are affected by the economic activities, such as deforestation, mining, and oil extraction

In accordance with Global Witness an NGO fighting the climate crisis, In 2019, 212 homicides of environmental defenders were documented (the highest figure to date). The country with the most murders recorded in that same year was Colombia, with 64 cases. Furthermore, the organization has classified Latin America as the region most affected by attacks since the beginning of its reporting in 2012, as more than two-thirds of the documented murders per year occur in this region (Global Witness, 2022).

Environmental defenders face off against large companies that want to dispossess and exploit the lands of indigenous communities for their own benefit; What’s more, many of these activists normally belong to or are representatives of indigenous populations. A Latino journalistic project showed that in the last decade, 48.8% of violent crimes (1,202 records out of 2,460) were against indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities (Tierra de Resistentes, 2021).

Although democracies that promote freedom of expression, association and protest predominate on the planet, the reality is that environmental activists are constantly abused by the authorities: they are victims of threats, physical abuse, unjustified arrest, harassment, and even death. Although this problem is shaking different countries in international society, Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions to be an activist, especially if it is a defender of Human Rights and freedom, such as the people who defend to the earth.

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