PBI Mexico express deep concern about the serious events that occurred last month in the community of San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca.
During the night of June 21, 2020, a total of 15 people, 13 men and two women, were brutally murdered during a confrontation in Huazantlan del Rio, where several members of the Ikoots indigenous community of San Mateo del Mar were directed to attend an assembly called by municipal agencies, bodies of the traditional collectivist form of government that characterizes this town. During the transfer to Huazantlan, the group had already been attacked by gunfire in the middle of the road by a group of armed and hooded people1.
The events are part of the decade-long social and political conflict that sees among the protagonists the Ikoots people and their strong opposition to a wind megaproject in the area of the Tehuantepec Isthmus (Oaxaca), where San Mateo del Mar is located. Currently, the State of Oaxaca has 28 wind farms and produces half of the energy generated throughout the country2. The Isthmus region, among the favorites by transnational companies due to the presence of strong winds, is not only extremely fragile at an ecological level, but it is also an ancestral and sacred territory of the Ikoots3. San Mateo del Mar, exercising its right to a prior and informed consensus, was one of the two and only towns that managed to stop a wind project in the area, aiming to preserve its culture made of sacred places and its fishing economy4.
The events of June 21 do not appear as isolated; almost two months earlier, on May 2, two armed attacks were delivered, provoking one victim and leading to an escalation of violence5. From this act, the inhabitants of San Mateo requested the intervention of the federal and state governments (National Guard, CNDH, Ombudsman of Oaxaca) through precautionary measures that would guarantee their safety and prevent the escalation of the conflict, without receiving any answers6.
Likewise, it has been highlighted that7, during the last massacre, the National Guard abandoned the community by forcefully leaving the assembly where it had arrived a few hours earlier; in addition, the forensic authorities took 24 hours to reach and collect the bodies and to retrieve evidence.
In the face of this serious situation of intimidation and violence and in the absence of the government, many civil society’s organizations, including EDUCA, immediately issued a statement8 expressed indignation over the events, as well as drafting clear petitions to the authorities involved, such as the respect and the recognition of the Ikoots culture and its traditional institutions and the guarantee of free and autonomous elections in accordance with their traditional forms of government.
In addition, the Maderas del Sureste A.C. decided to formally submit to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) a Complaint for omission against the public security authorities who did not guarantee security during the day of the massacre and during the previous two months9.
According to the latest Report on the Situation of Environmental Human Rights Defenders, prepared by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA)10, from 2012 to 2019 there have been 83 murders of environmental defenders and 499 attacks on land defenders, reaffirming Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries for those dedicated to the defense of the environment. Oaxaca is precisely the state with the highest number of attacks, with Puebla, Chihuahua and Guerrero respectively in fourth, fifth and sixth place, always according to the CEMDA report.
PBI joins the call made by civil society’s organizations to the competent authorities to clarify the facts, to identify and judge the intellectual and material guilt, to guarantee the safety of the members of San Mateo del Mar’s community and of all the people who exercise their legitimate defense work.