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Mexican Goldman Environmentalist Prize Winner Killed in Latest Attack on Latin American Activists

'The threats Isidro Baldenegro López faced for his resistance are emblematic of those suffered by countless others who take a stand against the theft of their land and destruction of the environment'

Isidro Baldenegro López accepts his award for environmental activism. (Photo: Goldman Prize)

A Mexican Indigenous activist who won the Goldman Environmental Prize has been shot dead, the second recipient of the prestigious award to be murdered in less than 12 months.

The Guardian reports that Isidro Baldenegro López, a subsistence farmer known for his work to stop illegal logging and deforestation, was shot at a relative's home on Sunday. Baldenegro, who received the Goldman prize in 2005, had only recently returned to his community, Coloradas de la Virgen in Chihuahua, in the country's northern Sierra Madre mountain region, after spending time in exile over threats against him and his family.

A spokesperson from the prosecutor's office told the Guardian that one of the killers had been identified and not yet detained.

His murder is the latest in a disturbing trend of attacks on Latin American activists. The 2016 assassination of Honduran Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, who co-founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras and was known for her work protecting natural resources and public lands, sent shockwaves through the social justice and environmentalist communities. Cáceres received the Goldman prize in 2015.

The Center for International and Environmental Law (CIEL) reported in August that Latin America is the "most dangerous region in the world" for land and water defenders, a finding that echoed a similar study published in June by the human rights group Global Witness.

Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather said Wednesday, "The threats Isidro Baldenegro López faced for his resistance are emblematic of those suffered by countless others who take a stand against the theft of their land and destruction of the environment. Nowhere is it deadlier to do so than in Latin America."

"This crime must not be met with impunity, like the majority of these killings are. The Mexican authorities must act with conviction, prosecuting those responsible for Isidro's murder and protecting his family and colleagues. Failing to do so will only encourage future violence," he said.

In 1993, Baldenegro founded an NGO to fight deforestation, and in 2002 he organized a series of grassroots actions that forced the government to implement a temporary logging moratorium. But his activism incurred the wrath of local politicians, landowners, and criminal bosses, the Guardian notes, which led to his illegal 15-month detention in 2003 on false charges of arms and drugs possession.

As a boy, he witnessed the assassination of his father, who was killed for taking a stand against illegal logging. Despite the risks associated with environmental activism, Baldenegro devoted his life to the cause.

Watch the Goldman video featuring Baldenegro's work, below:

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