For the defenders of the land, water and forests, Latin America is still the most dangerous region in the world. According to the latest report from the Global Witness Observatory, out of at least 227 murders of environmental activists in 2020—four every week, the highest number ever recorded—75% occurred on the Latin American subcontinent. And 7 of the top 10 most dangerous countries on the list are found here.
The country where the fight to protect the territory and its resources is exacting the worst human toll is Colombia, the same as in 2020, with 65 homicides (one more than the previous year), making up almost 30% of the total.
Mexico takes second place on the list, with an increase from 18 activists assassinated in 2019 to 30 in 2020, thus moving one spot higher than the Philippines, with 29.
The latter is followed by Brazil, with 20 (compared with 24 in the previous year), Honduras with 17 (an increase of 3), and then the Democratic Republic of Congo (15), Guatemala (13), Nicaragua (12) and Peru (6).
Out of all environmental activists, it is the indigenous people who are paying the highest price, being victims in more than one in three murders, even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.
The causes of these murders—all but one of which occurred in the global South—are the same as always: deforestation, mining, agribusiness, hydroelectric plants and other infrastructure projects. All this in a context made more and more serious by the combined effect of the climate crisis, forest fires, droughts that are destroying farmland and floods that are causing thousands of deaths.
But the worst culprit of all is the extractive model itself, which, as the report denounces, “overwhelmingly prioritizes profit over human rights and the environment.” Under its banner, businesses are operating “with almost complete impunity,” often with the complicity of governments.
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