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Advocates Express Fears Logging Industry Behind Disappearance of Mexican Monarch Butterfly Defender Homero Gómez

The butterfly sanctuary manager went missing January 13.

Homero Gómez, administrator of the biggest butterfly sanctuary in the western state of Michoacan.

Homero Gómez, administrator of the biggest butterfly sanctuary in the western state of Michoacan. (Photo Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca el Rosario/Facebook)

Concerns for the safety of monarch butterfly defender Homero Gómez lingered Wednesday, more than a week after the Mexican environmentalist went missing.

Gómez, the administrator of the biggest butterfly sanctuary in the western state of Michoacan, El Rosario, disappeared January 13. In a tweet from Jan. 12, Gomez, surrounded by monarchs, encourages people to come visit "this wonder of nature." His last posts on social media are from January 13.

The lightheartedness of the image belies the threats that came with his work to keep the butterflies' forest habitat intact.

Mayte Cardona, spokesperson for the Human Rights State Commission of Michoacan, told Reuters, "He was probably hurting the (business) interests of people illegally logging in the area."

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"Relatives of Mr. Gómez told local media that the conservationist had received threats from an organized crime gang," BBC News reported Wednesday.

Michoacan, as Reuters previously reported, is a state "long convulsed by turf wars between drug gangs." The Los Angeles Times also reported in November:

Mexico's multibillion-dollar avocado industry, headquartered in Michoacan state, has become a prime target for cartels, which have been seizing farms and clearing protected woodlands to plant their own groves of what locals call "green gold."

An investigation into Gómez's whereabouts is ongoing. Mexico City's La Jornada reported Tuesday that authorities detained 53 local police officers over a suspected connection to Gómez's disappearance.

Global Witness, in its latest annual report, said Mexico was sixth deadliest country and Latin America the deadliest region for environmental and land defenders.

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