Another deadly year for LatAm environment defenders

For the second year in a row, Colombia — home of indigenous environmentalist Celia Umenza, picture in Tacueyo — was the country with the highest number of people killed for their defense of nature, according to rights group Global Witness

A record 227 people were killed worldwide in 2020 for their defense of nature — more than four a week on average, and almost three-quarters of them in Latin America, environmental rights organization Global Witness said Sunday.

For the second year in a row, Colombia was the country with the highest number of killings — 65 — while Nicaragua had the highest per-capita rate, with 12 murders up from five in 2019, the group said in its annual report.

After Colombia, Mexico had the second highest number of deaths globally, with 30.

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“This is a crisis against humanity,” said the report.

Repressive governments, added Global Witness, used the global coronavirus outbreak “as an opportunity to clamp down on civil society as companies pushed ahead with destructive projects.”

The majority of victims — 71 percent — had been working to protect forests, while others died for their work to conserve rivers, coastal areas and the oceans.

A third of fatal attacks targeted indigenous peoples, who make up only five percent of the world’s population.

She has survived three attacks.

“It was very shocking. A group of people came to his house and killed him with big guns,” a friend, Diana Aranguren, told AFP, adding there has been “no progress” in the investigation.

“It’s clear that many companies engage in an extractive economic model that overwhelmingly prioritizes profit over human and environmental harm,” said the report.

– ‘Impunity’ –

It also criticized governments for being “all too willing to turn a blind eye.”

Global Witness has been collecting data on these types of attacks since 2012.

Global Witness said the data in its report did not capture the true scale of the problem, given press restrictions or a lack of independent monitoring of attacks in some countries.

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