Some 200 environmental and land defense activists were killed around the world in 2021, including some 54 in Mexico, which assumed the position of the deadliest country in the annual report by non-governmental organization Global Witness.
More than three-quarters of the killings took place in Latin America, where Colombia, Brazil and Nicaragua also logged double-digit death tolls.
It was the third consecutive year of increases for Mexico and a jump from 30 such activists killed in 2020.
“Most of these crimes happen in places that are far away from power and are inflicted on those with, in many ways, the least amount of power,” the report said.
Global Witness considers its report a baseline, noting “Our data on killings is likely to be an underestimate, given that many murders go unreported, particularly in rural areas and in particular countries.”
The victims died fighting resource exploitation and land disputes. Conflicts over mining were tied to 27 deaths worldwide, the most for any sector.
Fifteen of those mining-related killings were in Mexico.
In the western Mexico state of Jalisco, José Santos Isaac Chávez was killed in April 2021. He was running for local office and had made opposition to a long-running mine a central part of his campaign. Days before the election, he was found dead in his car, which had been driven off a cliff and his body showed evidence of torture. Armed men had dragged him out of his home and driven him away in his own vehicle.