Prize-winning environmental activist shot dead in Mexico

Activist Isidro Baldenegro López was the leader of Mexico's indigenous Tarahumara people.

Story highlights

  • Anti-logging activist Isidro Baldenegro López, 51, shot dead in Mexico's Chihuahua state
  • It's second time a Goldman Environmental Prize winner has been killed in Latin America

(CNN)An indigenous activist who protested against illegal logging in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains has been killed, highlighting the dangers that Latin American environmentalists face.

Isidro Baldenegro López, 51, a leader of the Tarahumara people and fervent environmentalist -- was shot dead Sunday at his uncle's home in the town of Coloradas de la Virgen in the state of Chihuahua, according to Mexican state-run news agency Notimex.
He was shot at least six times by a gunman, who fled the scene along with the weapon, the Chihuahua prosecutor's office said.
The police have launched an operation to capture the suspect.

'A fearless leader'

In 2005, Baldenegro López won the Goldman Environmental Prize for his dedication in organizing peaceful protests against illegal logging.
"He was a fearless leader and a source of inspiration to so many people fighting to protect our environment and indigenous people's rights," the Goldman Environmental Foundation said in a statement Wednesday.
Foundation President Susan R. Gelman sent her condolences to his family. She called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and asked the international community to "come together to protect his legacy."
In a tweet posted Wednesday, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International's director for the Americas, said that the activist's death "generates a warning in Latin America."
"The assassination of Isidro Baldenegro López is a tragic illustration of the many dangers that people who dedícate their life to defending human rights in Latin America suffer," she said in a statement from Amnesty International.
She called Latin America one of the most dangerous in the world for activists and demanded Mexico investigate the killing.
The death marks the second time that a Goldman Environmental Prize winner has been assassinated in Latin America.
In March, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran activist who received the prize in 2015, was found shot dead inside her home in La Esperanza, Honduras.
As a member of the Lenca indigenous group and co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, Cáceres led a successful campaign against one of Central America's biggest hydropower projects.
Before her death, Cáceres had been subject to multiple threats and harassment. The killing of one of Honduras' best-known activists drew swift condemnation from government officials.

2015 called deadliest year on record

Global Witness, an organization that seeks to expose corruption and environmental abuse, said 2015 was the deadliest year on record, citing the "killings of land and environmental defenders -- people struggling to protect their land, forests and rivers."
A report from the group documented 185 killings across 16 countries in 2015. It found this figure was more than double the number of journalists killed in the same period.
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Fernando Rubio Quiroz, secretary of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies' environmental committee, also condemned the Baldenegro López's assassination.
Quiroz called for an "end to the criminalization of environmental activism in the country," in a statement released Wednesday via Notimex, the state news agency.
He announced Mexico will establish National Environmental Defendor Day for July 17, Notimex reported.