Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mexico: Ecologist caught in crossfire

A Mexican ecologist critical of forest deforestation at the hands of narcotraffickers became one of the latest victims of the country's drug-related violence.

Javier Torres Cruz was murdered on Monday in his hometown of La Morena in the southeastern state of Guerrero. For several years he criticized local political chiefs and drug traffickers who sought to raze the forest in order to plant poppy plants, which can be used to produce heroin, opium and morphine. In 2008, for instance, he charged rancher Rogaciano Alba Álvarez with threatening and harassing peasant families to let go of their lands.

Torres Cruz also accused drug gangs linked to Alba Álvarez of the 2001 killing of human rights activist Digna Ochoa even though authorities eventually deemed her death as a suicide.

Torres Cruz’ outspokenness also made him the target of local officials who tried to spread unproven rumors that his work with peasant communities linked him to guerillas. He claimed that the army was behind his kidnapped and torture for ten days in December 2008. Mexico’s national human rights body subsequently called on Guerrero authorities to take precautionary measures to protect Torres Cruz but the recommendations were reportedly ignored.

So far no suspects have been arrested in the assassination of Torres Cruz though his family alleged that his killers where a group of hitmen linked to Alba Álvarez. (Alba Álvarez currently sits in prison having been convicted of drug trafficking and illegally using arms belonging to the military.)

Even though Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre belongs to the country’s top leftist political party (PRD, in Spanish), leaders of the PRD urged that he stop “the persecution” of local peasant communities. In addition, members of a Mexican lawyers association plan to denounce Torres Cruz’ death to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Image- CBC News (Murdered ecologist Javier Torres Cruz denounced the felling of forest trees in order for drug gangs to grow poppy plants similar to these uncovered in Canada.)
Online Sources- EPA, El Universal, La Republica, CNN Mexico, Radio Formula, La Jornada de Guerrero

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