On January 16, 2017 the well-known environmental and human rights activist Isido Baldenegro López succumbed to injuries after being shot the day before. The scene of the crime was the municipality of Coloradas de la Virgen in the south of Sierra Tarahumara, one of the municipalities with the highest rates of violent crime in Mexico.
For many years the Alianza Sierra Madre A.C. has supported the indigenous population of Coloradas de la Virgen in their struggle for land rights against the local power holders. The price in blood has been high: since 1973 eleven indigenous leaders in Coloradas de la Virgen have been murdered by the Mafia. The Alianza continues its work unintimidated - and we support it!
Isidro Baldenegro was born in Coloradas de la Virgen, where more than 850 Tarahumara live on about fifty rancherías. Only a small part of the agricultural land in the municipality is recognized as an indigenous territory, and large parts of the municipality - including the valuable forest areas - were identified as so-called public common lands (ejido) in 1952. However, only those who are residents may be registered in the list of ejidatarios. Corrupt local politicians have manipulated this list so that the members of the indigenous community remain outside. For decades, the Indios of Coloradas de la Virgen have been fighting for their land rights in court - and against the deforestation of the forests, after the state Environmental Protection Agency granted a license to the municipality of Coloradas de la Virgen in 2007. The legal dispute has been going on since 1992, sometimes with a verdict in favor of the one, sometimes in favor of the other side. This is a thorn in the eyes of the local powers-that-be since the legal dispute is hampering the financially lucrative timber industry, which is tightly connected to the local drug mafia. The latter does not shy away from open violence and murder.
For years Isidro Baldenegro had been involved in the struggle of the indigenous community for their land rights. In 2003, he was falsely accused of drug and weapon possession and imprisoned. International pressure - including Amnesty International - prompted the Attorney General to drop the charges and release Isidro Baldenegro. In 2005 he received the prestigious Goldman Prize for his commitment to the preservation of the forests of his homeland. Most recently, he was forced to live outside the municipality of Coloradas de la Virgen after receiving massive threats. In January 2017, he returned to his hometown to visit a sick aunt, was shot, and fatally wounded. The murderer - Romeo Rubio Martínez – brazenly appeared in public. Will he be held responsible by the Mexican police and judiciary?