Indigenous Human Rights Defender Killed in Mexico
KAIROS is saddened and deeply troubled by the recent murder of Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, an Indigenous Zapotec community leader and human rights defender from Oaxaca, Mexico. This most recent example of the escalation of violence and increase in threats and attacks against Indigenous and environmental activists in communities where Canadian mining companies are operating is of grave concern to KAIROS.
On March 15, Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez and two members of his family were ambushed as they drove on a highway in Ocotlán, in the southern state of Oaxaca. Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez died after being shot at least three times in the back. His brother, Álvaro Andres Vásquez Sánchez, and their cousin, Rosalinda Vásquez, were seriously injured and are in hospital.
Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez was the leader of the Coordinating Committee of United Peoples of Ocotlán Valley (Coordinadora de Pueblos Unidos del Valle de Ocotlán, CPUVO). Álvaro Andres Vásquez Sánchez and Rosalinda Vásquez are members. CPUVO’s demands include respect for the rights of the traditional owners of the communities’ lands. It has been an outspoken opponent of the Canadian mining company, Fortuna Silver Mines in San José del Progreso, Oaxaca, known locally by the name of its subsidiary, Minera Cuzcatlán. There are concerns with the mining project’s potential impact on the water supply, as the community is located in the arid Ocotlán valley of Oaxaca. Residents opposing the mine argue that the water-intensive silver and gold mining process poses a serious risk to their aquifers.
Community members have reported an increase in violence since the arrival of the mining company. In January of this year, Bernardo Mendez, a community activist and colleague of Bernardo Vásquez, was also shot dead. Abigail Vasquez, Bernardo Vasquez’s sister, was seriously wounded in this shooting.
Please take a few minutes to respond to Amnesty International’s urgent action. It is directed at the Mexican authorities and calls for:
- protection for Álvaro Vásquez Sánchez, Rosalinda Vásquez and all other members of the Coordinating Committee of United Peoples of Ocotlán Valley (CPUVO) )
- a full and prompt investigation into the killing of Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, to bring those responsible to justice
- protection for human rights defenders and full compliance with United Nations resolution 61/178, which protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples
Ecumenical Statement on mining
Last year, on May 1-3, KAIROS hosted an ecumenical conference on mining which brought together over 150 people from all parts of the world, including 50 people from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific to consider the impact of Canadian mining on their communities. The conference statement called for “greater and more committed solidarity and accompaniment of communities directly affected by mining”. It called on “the Canadian churches and churches globally, to take responsibility in speaking out more publicly on the issues and concerns raised during the gathering”, including increasing threats and attacks on human rights defenders.
For more information, please contact Rachel Warden, Latin American partnerships coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org