Environmental defender, butterfly protector Homero Gómez González killed in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

Environmental defender Homero Gómez González, who protected butterflies at the El Rosario sanctuary, has been killed.

The sanctuary Gómez González managed is located in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

On January 30, The Guardian reported, “A Mexican environmental activist who fought to protect the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly has been found dead in the western state of Michoacán, two weeks after he disappeared.”

“Millions of the butterflies make a 2,000-mile (3,220km) journey each year from Canada to pass the winter in central Mexico’s warmer weather. But the forests and the monarchs are threatened by climate change and the incursion of illegal loggers and avocado farmers.”

Why butterflies are important

Butterfly Conservation highlights, “Areas rich in butterflies and moths are rich in other invertebrates. These collectively provide a wide range of environmental benefits, including pollination and natural pest control.”

The Ecologist adds, “They pollinate our food sources along with bees and other flying insects. Butterflies don’t have the furry bodies that bees have so they take less pollen, but they cover greater distances, strengthening the genetic variation of DNA in plants.”

That article also notes, “Birds, bats, and spiders amongst others eat caterpillars and blue tit chicks exist almost entirely upon them. Removing a step in the food chain can have unforeseen consequences on our wildlife.”

The motives for the murder of Gómez González

The Guardian reports, “The motive for his murder remains unknown, but some activists speculated that it could have been related to disputes over illegal logging.”

Al Jazeera adds, “Activists said his death could be related to disputes over illegal logging, water or income from visitors’ fees. …Disputes over water from mountain springs have also occurred in the region and avocado planters have long coveted the area, which has near-ideal growing conditions for the valuable fruit.”

And the Associated Press has noted, “[Communal farmer Raúl García González] recalled how, in 2019, Gómez González led hundreds of communal farmers in a demonstration in the nearby town of Angangueo to demand the town pay for water it receives from the mountain streams that are born on their properties. They never got an answer.”

Environmental defenders killed in Mexico

Amado Gómez, Homero Gómez González’s brother, says, “I would like to ask the authorities to do their job and do more to protect activists like my brother, because lately in Mexico a lot of activists have died. With his death, not only my family lost a loved one; but the whole world, and the monarch butterfly and the forests lost, too.”

The Guardian article notes, “Gómez González’s death comes as the murder rate continues to surge in a country where environmental defenders, human rights workers and community activists are routinely targeted for their work.”

“President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to halt attacks on environmental defenders, but the killings continue.”

Front Line Defenders has reported that 304 human rights defenders were killed worldwide in 2019. Of that number, 23 were killed in Mexico. Overall, 40 per cent of those killed worldwide worked on land, Indigenous peoples, and environmental rights.

The Global Witness report on the number of land and environmental defenders killed in 2019 will be released this July. Their previous report noted that 14 land and environmental defenders were killed in Mexico in 2018. Of the 164 land environmental defenders killed worldwide in 2018, 43 deaths were related to mining and extractives, 21 to agribusiness, 17 to water and dams, and 13 to logging.

PBI in Mexico

In 2018, 10 Peace Brigades International (PBI) brigadistas accompanied members of 16 organizations working on forced disappearances, impunity, women’s rights, indigenous rights and environmental protection. Two field teams cover the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Oaxaca and Guerrero, with activities coordinated from the PBI office in Mexico City.

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