Goldman Prize-winning activist slain in northern Mexico
Mexico City — A Mexican indigenous leader who was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 for his fight against illegal logging has been shot dead, less than a year after another winner of the award was slain in Honduras.
The prosecutor’s office for the northern state of Chihuahua said Wednesday in a statement that 51-year-old Isidro Baldenegro was killed Sunday at an uncle’s home in the town of Guadalupe y Calvo. Authorities were investigating a possible motive.
Prosecutors said Baldenegro was shot at least six times and suffered wounds in the chest, abdomen and leg. They were searching for a 25-year-old male suspect who was also at the home and fled after the shooting.
The Goldman Environmental Foundation issued a statement saying it was “deeply distressed” by the killing and calling for an investigation. It said Baldenegro was a leader of the indigenous Tarahumara people.
“His relentless work organizing peaceful protests against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre Mountains helped protect the forests, lands and rights of his people,” Goldman President Susan R. Gelman was quoted as saying. “He was a fearless leader and a source of inspiration to so many people fighting to protect our environment and indigenous peoples’ rights.”
Honduran activist Berta Caceres, who won the Goldman prize in 2015 for organizing opposition to a hydroelectric project on her Lenca people’s ancestral lands, was slain last March 3 when armed men forced their way into her home in the middle of the night and shot her four times. A visiting Mexican activist was wounded in the attack.
Observers say killings of land activists are common in Latin America. According to the London-based group Global Witness, more than 450 were slain in the region from 2010 through 2014.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, also condemned Baldenegro’s killing, calling it “a tragic illustration of the many dangers faced by those who dedicate their lives to defend human rights in Latin America, one of the most dangerous regions in the (world) for activists.”