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Speak Up for Environment Defenders Under Attack in Latin America

Posted in: Activism Guide
    Monday, April 26, 2021 - 14:07

    Perhaps the greatest cross border priority we all face is protecting the environment on which our human rights and shared future depends. 

    Environment defenders in Latin America risk their very lives to respond to this challenge with hope and enormous courage. Indeed, Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world to defend human rights and the environment.

    Most at risk are Indigenous, black and rural campesino defenders, especially when they confront people intent on taking control of their land to exploit its economic potential or the natural resources found there, no matter the cost. Women environment defenders face the added risk of sexual violence against them or their children because their outspoken efforts challenge traditional gender roles as well as economic interests.

    Amnesty International Canada is responding to appeals for solidarity from environment defenders in Latin America who know their governments often pay more attention to their international image than the voices of their citizens.

    We invite you to support these campaigns, which are built on the rightful demands of the defenders themselves. Scroll down this page for different actions you can take – and important updates about the value of our advocacy.

    SOS COLOMBIA

    On Earth Day, April 22, we will launch our SOS Colombia campaign in support of land, Indigenous territory and environment defenders under attack amidst an ever-growing number of assassinations. This campaign builds on the activism of more than 16,000 people who sent messages of concern and solidarity for threatened Amazon defender Jani Silva during Write for Rights 2020.

    Visit our campaign page here to read emblematic stories of threatened defenders, including Jani Silva, and watch short videos in which they tell us about the realities they face.

    Please sign our online action here calling on Colombia's Congress to protect defenders. 

    Use social media to support threatened Colombia environment defenders
    •    On Earth Day (April 22), amid dangerous new threats against Jani Silva and her organization ADISPA, we will be sharing a new solidarity initiative to increase attention and press for strengthened protection. 
    •    Read from or share an image of our #LetterFromTheWorld in support of Jani Silva and urge President @IvanDuque and Interior Minister @Danielpalam to protect her and the other threatened defenders of ADISPA.

    Here's a sample:

     

    FREE BERNARDO CAAL XOL IN GUATEMALA

    We continue to campaign to free inspiring Maya Q’eqchi’ river defender and prisoner of conscience Bernardo Caal Xol from more than three years of unjust imprisonment.

    Sign our online action here. We have already collected more than 12,000 signatures. We want to increase that number to command more attention!

    Use social media to make sure Guatemala’s Attorney General is aware that Canadians are concerned about the lack of justice for Indigenous environment defenders in Guatemala. Here is a sample tweet that tags the Attorney General. Be sure to use the hashtag #LibertadParaBernardo (Freedom for Bernardo)

    Hear directly from Bernardo Caal Xol by reading the handwritten letters that are posted on this Facebook page

    Send a solidarity message for delivery to Bernardo to campaigner Kathy Price>kprice@amnesty.ca

     

    JUSTICE FOR BERTA IN HONDURAS

    In the past 5 years since the murder of Lenca leader and river defender Berta Caceres, we have mobilized more than 65,000 messages to Honduran authorities by Amnesty Canada supporters echoing calls for justice by Berta’s inspiring daughters, Bertha Isabel and Laura Zúniga (pictured above) and their organization COPINH.  They have courageously called for everyone behind the crime to be prosecuted, not only the contract killers who are now in jail, in order to end the impunity that continues to fuel vicious persecution of environment defenders.

    At the beginning of April, there was a huge step forward when David Castillo was put on trial. The former military intelligence officer and general manager of DESA, the company building the dam project that Berta had relentlessly challenged on behalf of affected Lenca communities, is accused of being an ‘intellectual author’ of the murder of Berta. Her family has presented evidence alleging that Castillo was the link between the men hired to carry out the killing and a powerful family they believe paid for the crime. 

    It is vital that we continue to signal to Honduran authorities that the eyes of the world are watching and expect nothing less than the full truth and justice for everyone responsible!

    Sign our online action here and encourage others in your networks to do so.

    Share your call for #JusticeForBerta on social media.

    Here's a sample post that tags both the authorities and COPINH so they know they are not alone:

    Want to send a powerful message of solidarity? Consider planting a tree to honour Berta and the contributions of earth defenders everywhere. Be sure to share this with COPINH and with us via kprice@amnesty.ca 

    Visit COPINH's English language webpage for updates

     

    JUSTICE FOR JULIAN IN MEXICO

    Our activism in support of persecuted forest and water defenders in the Raramuri Indigenous community of Coloradas de la Virgen has helped to achieve a significant step forward.

    More than 10,000 supporters of Amnesty Canada sent messages to state and federal authorities, denouncing the murder of Julian Carrillo and urging action to bring the killers to justice. As in other countries where environment defenders are under attack, a pattern of impunity in Mexico has served as a green light for yet more violence aimed at paralysing the efforts of communities defending the environment on which their rights depend. 

    In March, amidst heightened attention we helped to create, a court in Chihuahua State issued a landmark ruling that not only convicted a second person for the the murder of Julian Carrillo, but underscored the systemic nature of threats against Indigenous communities defending their rights. The judges also underscored the responsibility of Mexican authorities for failing to take action to protect Julian Carrillo from clear and present danger. 

    Amnesty Canada met with Canada’s Ambassador in Mexico ahead of the trial to request that Canada speak out. At the online meeting, we ensured that Embassy staff heard directly from the courageous defenders of Alianza Sierra Madre in Chihuahua, who are at risk because of their work with Julian Carrillo and his community to protect Indigenous rights and the environment.

    We were heartened that Ambassador Clark acted on our recommendation that the Embassy use both its diplomatic and its social media channels to publicly communicate concern for the protection of witnesses from Julian’s community as well as the safety of the defenders of Alianza Sierra Madre.

    The situation remains a dangerous one for Indigenous communities in Mexico expressing opposition to resource extraction, including projects of Canadian mining companies, that violate their right to a healthy environment. Stay tuned for future opportunities to support the advocacy of our Indigenous partners.
     

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