Things That Matter

Indigenous Environmental Activist Irma Galindo Barrios Has Been Found Ten Days After Going Missing

To be a journalist, an elected official, a business owner, and an activist in Mexico can be very risky. The same could be said for other countries as well. Speaking your mind, making changes, and reporting facts can cost you your life. Many people have died because of the work they do in Mexico. So, anytime anyone goes missing, people go on high-alert because it’s never just a random thing. These matters are very serious and need to be addressed.

On Nov. 10, an environmentalist based in Oaxaca went missing. Her name is Irma Galindo Barrios, and her activism work focuses on the protection of the forest in Oaxaca.

Credit: irmis.barrios / Facebook

Just weeks before, when she went missing, the 36-year-old posted on her Facebook that she felt she was being threatened by the president and commissioner of San Esteban Atatlahuaca, Oaxaca, among others. 

“For days my own neighbors told me that they will come for me,” she wrote on Oct. 27. Galindo Barrios added that she is “only an artisan and ecologist and healer.” She said that local officials were spreading lies about her. 

“It is the same strategy that the commissioner and the president used to get me out of town hall because I did not agree to invest more in alcohol than in cultural activities,” she added, “I live in good view Totoi in case they want to come for me, just let me know beforehand to wait for them.”

On Nov. 8, she made a post on Facebook in which she called out local officials for not protecting the communities from loggers. She went missing two days later. 

Credit: @UnoNoticias / Twitter

Galindo Barrios posted information about the injuries, and reportedly, their subsequent death of two people in the forest of San Esteban Atatlahuca. She wrote that people in the area needed protection. 

According to blogs, Galindo Barrios’s partner has asked officials for protection in the past, but the request has never been granted. 

Just yesterday, Galindo Barrios was apparently found after ten days of her unknown whereabouts. According to reports, she hid in the forest for protection in fear that her life was in danger. 

Credit: @Altavoznoticias / Twitter

Gloria Flores, who works with the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, reports that Galindo Barrios’s house was burned and added that the most terrifying aspect is that Galindo Barrios “denounced the situation” occurring in her native land and nothing has been done about it. Flores added that Galindo Barrios must be able to continue her work as a defender of environmental rights, in order to protect their land and protect others from intimidation or worse. 

While the work of activists in Mexico has always been under threat, reports show that the lives of activists are considerably in danger more now than ever before.

Credit: @Andalalucha / Twitter

According to Amnesty International and Global Witness, at least 41 activists have been killed in the past three years. The trend has been increasing since 2017. Amnesty International reports that 12 murders happened this year alone. Amnesty International’s Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said that Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador should call out the atrocities against activists and should do something to protect them.

She called their work incredibly important to the country, and are “brave defenders of the land, territory, and environment face constant danger in Mexico.” She the president must “publicly recognize activists for their invaluable contribution to the protection of natural resources.”

The threat against environmentalists is an extremely serious situation in Mexico. In 2018, indigenous rights activist Julián Carrillo who was also an environmentalist activist like Galindo Barrios was killed in Chihuahua after numerous threats against him and his family.

Credit: @AIMexico / Twitter

“After a year, the Mexican authorities still haven’t tried those responsible for Carrillo’s death. As of now, two people have been detained and are being investigated, but they still haven’t determined responsibility,” Amnesty International said in a press release. They added, “The fight for the rights of the land and against indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources, carried out by defenders of land and territory, deserves all of our solidarity and support, given our fundamental obligation to leave a healthy environment for future generations.” 

Galindo Barrios has yet to make a public statement about what happened to her while she was missing and what she plans to do next.

READ: In Mexico, Feminist Activists Honored Victims of Femicide by Marching During What they Called “Día de Muertas”

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