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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 24th March 2017 > ‘CLIMATE OF TERROR’


The unsolved killing of a Mexican environmentalist has left many activists frustrated— and afraid they could be next


“I’M IN shock,” says José Trinidad Baldenegro. “In despair.”

On the phone from the city of Chihuahua in Mexico’s arid north, he’s telling me about his older brother, Isidro Baldenegro López, an activist and leader of the indigenous Tarahumara people. For years, Baldenegro had endured numerous threats as a result of his work protecting the country’s ancient forests from illegal logging. But one stormy afternoon in January, standing by a goat pen outside his uncle’s house in the village of Coloradas de la Virgen, Baldenegro was shot six times in the chest, stomach and legs. He died a few hours later.

His killing its a deadly pattern across the region: Latin America is now the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists, according to a 2016 report by Article 19, a British human rights group. More than 122 activists were killed in the region in 2015, one of the deadliest years on record, according to the most recent study from Global Witness, another nongovernmental organization.

Mexico has emerged as one of the most perilous countries in the region. Organized crime, state-sanctioned intimidation and near-total impunity have proved to be a hazardous and often deadly combination for the many activists trying to protect the country’s natural resources. In Jan uary, Mexico’s Center for Environmental Rights (CEMDA) released a report that documented 63 attacks against environmental activists in 2015 and 2016. However, this only included cases reported on by the media or other NGOs, so the number could be much higher.

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