Yet another brave land defender has disappeared in Mexico. Irma Galindo Barrios, a member of the Indigenous Mixtec group in Oaxaca, very publicly defended her people’s lands from illegal logging. She hasn’t been seen since Oct. 27.
Earlier that day, Galindo was turned away when she tried to present a petition to President Obrador in Mexico City. Then she was expected to attend a virtual meeting involving protecting environmental defenders and journalists. She didn’t show up.
Unfortunately, many environmental defenders disappear, are attacked or murdered in Mexico. According to the Mexican Centre for Environmental Law, people attacked 65 environmental defenders in 2020 and murdered 18. This is up from the 2019 figure of 39 attacks. The law center’s report described “structural and generalised violence against those who defend nature, land and territory.”
Just before Galindo disappeared, attackers terrorized her municipality of San Esteban Atatlahuca. From Oct. 21 to 23, individuals killed between two and seven people, depending on conflicting reports, disappeared approximately four and burned at least 90 homes. It’s all about logging. Those who stand in the way of loggers by defending the pine forests of Oaxaca’s mountains are mowed down. The powers-that-be don’t care about Indigenous people’s reliance on the forest for mushroom foraging and sustainable woodcutting.
“The issue in Oaxaca is there is enormous complicity between groups with political power, who sometimes control an area, and people are supposed to benefit from these natural resources,” said Oaxaca human rights lawyer Maurilio Santiago Reyes, as reported by The Guardian. “Nobody ever responded to the complaints that were made.”
Before her disappearance, Galindo expressed her frustration in a Facebook post. “There aren’t any government officials who will go and see how we live … They only send in money that is used to buy weapons that are used to kill us. If there are organizations or groups that want to help us, they end up being criminalized, threatened and harassed. Where does this end? What follows?”
Lead image via Pexels