Rights organizations in Guatemala condemned the killing of Walter Mendez Barrios, a prominent activist fighting against deforestation and hydroelectric projects in the Central American country.
Mendez, leader of the Association of Forest Communities of Peten, was found dead Wednesday on his property “with several shots” in the body, said the NGO in a statement released Friday.
“As a result of the causes he defended, he had been receiving death threats from the illegal land invaders who he had publicly denounced. In addition, it was part of the Petenero Front against Dams, which opposes the creation of hydroelectric projects in the Usumacinta River,” said the statement.
Mendez's ACOFOP is an organization that represents several communities who live in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, which lies in the north of Guatemala. It receives grants for sustainable forest development, and as a result its members actively fight against development projects that would damage the environment.
Mendez Barrios' death comes after the killing of prominent Honduran rights activist Berta Caceres, who was shot down in her home earlier this month, causing international outrage. Nelson Garcia, a member of the same Indigenous rights group as Caceres, was also assassinated in Honduras last week.
According to ACOFOP, the recent deaths highlight the increased repression against environmental activists in Central America.
The crimes “are the result of systematic violence suffered in Central America leaders who are struggling to defend nature, cultures and territories, threats such as large hydroelectric dams (and) field crops,” added the organization in its statement.
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