Isidro Baldenegro Lopez, an award-winning Indigenous environmental activist who fought against deforestation in Mexico, was assassinated last weekend, Proceso reports.
Baldenegro, the 2005 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America, was found dead outside a relative’s house in Chihuahua. Witnesses claim the murder suspects are linked with known assassins of other Indigenous environmental activists in the region.
Baldenegro will be buried in Coloradas de la Virgen, the land belonging to his native Tarahumara community, which he and his family defended for decades.
In March 2003, he was arrested for 15 months for organizing protests against unregulated logging in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Two decades prior, his father was shot and killed in front of him shortly after, leading to mass protests against logging corporations.
Baldenegro’s story echoes those of countless other Indigenous environmental activists across Latin America who have been killed for defending their native lands, like Berta Caceres and Walter Mendez Barrios.
Murdered in March last year, Caceres was a Honduran Indigenous activist who was killed amid a campaign she led to stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam that threatened to harm lands belonging to her native Lenca people. She was also a recipient of the Goldman Prize.
While Caceres' death attracted international attention, just days later Walter Mendez Barrios, a Guatemalan environmental activist, was also murdered. He was the leader of the Association of Forest Communities of Peten, which sought to protect Indigenous lands against deforestation led by foreign corporations.
Investigative journalism group Global Witness reports that Latin America had the highest murder rate of environmental activists in 2015, compared to other regions.
While Baldenegro was officially recognized for his work defending his native lands in Mexico, he was widely championed as a hero of Indigenous land rights across the world.
“Baldenegro’s courageous efforts have made him a national and international hero,” the Goldman Prize site writes of the deceased Tarahumara leader.
“He brought world attention to the beautiful, ecologically crucial old-growth forests of the Sierra Madre as well as the survival of the Tarahumara.”
Baldenegro was just 50 years old.