HomeNewsBriefLatAm Deadliest Region for Environmental Defenders: Report

More land and environmental activists were killed in Latin America last year than anywhere else in the world, according to a new report, underscoring how shifting organized crime dynamics put environmental defenders at greater risk.

A total of some 207 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2017, according to the new report from the watchdog group Global Witness. Nearly 60 percent of those killings took place in Latin America, making it the deadliest year on record for this community.

Brazil recorded the largest number of killings in the region with 57, while Colombia and Mexico recorded the next highest with 24 and 15, respectively, according to the report. Mexico and Peru saw “marked increases” in killings between 2016 and 2017 as the number of killings jumped 400 percent in Mexico, and 300 percent in Peru.

There was also a significant decrease in the number of land defenders killed in Honduras, down from 14 in 2016 to five in 2017, although the report stressed that the repression of civil society is “worse than ever.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Human Rights

According to the report, the agribusiness industry is one of the main sectors driving attacks against land defenders, in addition to mining and extractive industries and logging. Criminal gangs were often found to be the suspected perpetrators, followed by soldiers, police and paramilitary forces.

In addition, the report found that there are a number of factors that “accentuate and perpetuate” the risks that land defenders face, including widespread impunity that gives the “green light” to potential attackers and corruption among government officials and businesses that sometimes also collude with criminal groups.

(Video courtesy of Global Witness)

InSight Crime Analysis

These latest findings reinforce the growing threat that land and environmental activists face when they threaten the lucrative criminal activities of organized crime groups in Latin America, and how shifting criminal dynamics can put them at greater risk.

For example, the report makes a direct link between the drastic increase in the murders of land defenders in Mexico to a “massive rise” in organized crime-related murders nationwide. Indeed, organized crime-related homicides reached a record high in 2017 amid an increasingly fragmented criminal landscape.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Colombia is also undergoing intense criminal fragmentation after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), and was again among the top three most dangerous countries for land and environmental defenders last year. Social leaders continue to be killed at an alarming rate so far in 2018 as competing criminal organizations battle for control over illicit economies.

But organized crime is not the only actor at fault. On the other hand, legislative and other reforms have put Brazil’s environmental activists in greater harm. The report found that Brazil President Michel Temer has “systematically weakened the legislation, institutions and budgets” that could have protected human rights defenders and “skewed the balance of power” against activists. This has contributed to Brazil holding the rank as the most dangerous country to be a land defender in Latin America for the last decade.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 23 APR 2014

In the past three years, 48,947 people were murdered in the Northern Triangle, the most violent region of the world,…

COLOMBIA / 31 JAN 2018

Colombian authorities have reported that Mexican cartels are attempting to establish themselves in the South American country. However, the presence…

ARGENTINA / 21 SEP 2015

Footage shot using a hidden camera sheds light on the dynamics of the Southern Cone’s illicit arms trade, showing how…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.