[News] In Memoriam: 28 Indigenous Rights Defenders Murdered in Latin America in 2019

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 30 15:24:41 EST 2020


  In Memoriam: 28 Indigenous Rights Defenders Murdered in Latin America
  in 2019

January 28, 2020

As we enter 2020, Cultural Survival remembers 28 courageous Indigenous 
human rights and environmental defenders who were murdered in 2019 in 
the Latin American countries where we do our work.  We invite you to 
take a moment to learn about and support the human rights and 
environmental defense work being carried out by these individuals that 
likely led to their targeting.

Attacks against Indigenous human rights defenders have shown an alarming 
surge over the past three years. UN Special Rapporteur Vicky Tauli 
Corpuz has called this trend a “global crisis," denouncing persistent 
impunity against those who commit these crimes. Of this list, only one 
of 28 murders have been investigated conclusively and perpetrators 
brought to justice.

We acknowledge that this list is not exhaustive. Due to marginalization 
and discrimination by authorities, unequal access to justice, language 
barriers, and the lack of coverage by mainstream media, there are many 
acts of violence against Indigenous Peoples around the world that go 

Please join us in celebrating the legacies of these defenders who gave 
their lives in pursuit of a better world.

*Óscar Cazorla (Zapotec) - MEXICO*

Óscar Cazorla (Zapotec) - MEXICO On February 9, 2019, Óscar Cazorla 
(62), _was found murdered 
in his home in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico. Cazorla was a  
Zapotec activist and an advocate for Muxe and LGBTQIA rights. He 
self-identified as Muxe, a non-binary third gender originating within 
Zapotec culture in the region of Istmo de Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. 
Muxes live throughout the Istmo de Tehuantepec region, however, Juchitán 
is historically regarded as a safe haven for Muxe culture and 
self-expression. However, while Muxes are both inherent and revered 
members of Zapotec culture, they still confront nonacceptance and 
persecution from those opposed to gender diversity and nonconformity to 
a binary structure of gender. Óscar Cazorla fought to maintain and and 
raise awareness of Muxe culture. He was a founding member of _Las 
Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro 
<https://www.lasintrepidas.com/>_ or “The Authentic Intrepid Seekers of 
Danger,” a Muxe-run group created in 1976 to foster solidarity amongst 
the Muxe community and celebrate sexual diversity. As an Indigenous 
person, a human rights activist, and member of the LGBTQIA community, 
Óscar Cazorla existed in an intersection of targeted identities. 
Indigenous Peoples, human rights activists, environmental defenders, and 
members of the LGBTQIA community remain targets of hate crime both 
within Mexico and throughout the globe. In _July 2019 
supporters and relatives of Óscar continued demanding that the Fiscalía 
General de Justicia del Estado de Oaxaca (FGJEO) bring Cazorla’s death 
justice, but the murder remains unresolved.

Photo: _Miho Hagino/Facebook 

*Saturnino Ramírez Interiano (May**a Ch’orti’) **Guatemala*
Saturnino Ramírez Interiano (Maya Ch’orti’) GuatemalaMaya Ch'orti' 
linguist Saturnino Ramírez Interiano


in Chiquimula, Guatemala on February 13, 2019. He was a linguist, 
educator, and active proponent of the history and culture of the 
Indigenous Ch’orti’ Peoples. Saturnino Ramírez Interiano worked for over 
10 years as a director at the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala in 
Chiquimula, Guatemala. The Ch’orti’ are an Indigenous Peoples that 
reside in the Chiquimula and Zacapa departments of Guatemala and in 
bordering communities in Honduras. They have suffered from a


of colonization, persecution, land loss, and political discrimination. 
As an advocate for Ch’orti’ culture, Saturnino Ramírez Interiano 
frequently traveled throughout the Ch’orti’ region to teach classes on 
the Ch’orti’ language and history. A colleague and professor at the 

_Petronilo Pérez López 

, declared: “We worked together for a long time, committed to the rescue 
of the Chortí language and culture. He always fought so that the 
community leaders of the region would not let this valuable ancestral 
tool – one which identifies us – die. We were great companions and his 
death hurts me. The Chortí region is in mourning.” Ramírez Interanio’s 
death continues to shake his community. Police have failed to make 
progress in investigating the crime.



*Sergio Rojas (Bribri)- COSTA RICA*

Sergio Rojas (Bribri)- COSTA RICAOn the evening of March 18, 2019, 
Indigenous leader _Sergio Rojas Ortiz 
was assassinated in his residence in Salitre de Buenos Aires, part of 
the Puntarenas province, after being shot multiple times. Rojas was a 
member of the Uniwak clan, part of the Bribri community, one of the 
eight Indigenous Peoples that are recognized in Costa Rica. A well-known 
Indigenous leader in the region, Rojas Ortiz was a member of the 
National Front of Indigenous Peoples (Frente Nacional de Pueblos 
Indígenas - FRENAPI), the Council for the Defenders of Mother Earth 
(Autoridades Propias Defensoras de la Madre Tierra), and the Association 
for the Development of the Salitre People (Asociación para el Desarrollo 
del Pueblo de Salitre). He worked tirelessly to implement Indigenous 
land rights in Costa Rica, advocating for the removal of unauthorized 
settlers on Indigenous-titled lands.  The crime occurred only hours 
after Rojas Ortiz, along with two neighbors, went_to the state 
prosecutor to report a series of threats 
that members of the Salitre community had received regarding a land 
dispute over Indigenous territories. After the murder, Costa Rican 
president Carlos Alvarado Quesada _condemned 
<http://indigenouspolicy.org/index.php/ipj/article/view/599/612>_ the 
crime, stating: “A tragic day for the Bribri People, for all our 
Indigenous communities, and for all of Costa Rica.”  Costa Rica has 
created a _specialized investigative unit_ 
in order to pursue the crime, but aside from releasing a sketch of two 
suspects, work being carried out by this unit, if any, has been kept 
tightly under wraps and as of July 2019 no recent news has been released.

In October 2018, Cultural Survival submitted 
a_<https://www.upr-info.org/es/upr-process/what-is-it>_report on human 
rights violations against Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica to the UN 
Human Rights Council via _Universal Periodic Review 
<https://www.upr-info.org/es/upr-process/what-is-it>_, which 
specifically urged authorities to improve security measures for the 
people of Salitre, Rojas’ home village.  Five months after submitting 
this report, Sergio Rojas was killed. This prompted Cultural Survival to 
take further action; in April 2019, _Cultural Survival 
the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and met with the 
Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN to urge for immediate 
investigations into the asassination of Sergio Rojas inquire on progress 
to secure Indigenous territorial autonomy.

Photo: _Facebook 

*Cristian Javá Ríos (Urarina), PERU*

Cristian Javá Ríos (Urarina), PERUOn April 17, 2019, in the Peruvian 
Amazon, Cristian Javá Ríos (20) _was killed in a gang-organized ambush , 
motivated to sabotage pipelines transporting oil across the region. 
For years, Peru’s northern Amazon has been subjected to oil spills and 
the releasing of billions of barrels of toxic waste, at the hands of 
Argentinian Pluspetrol and the China National Petroleum Corporation. The 
Urarina along with other Indigenous Peoples of the Peruvian Amazon are 
constantly under _threat 
due to these degrading oil activities, which have caused health 
epidemics, pollution, economic dependency and land violations, including 
the destruction of forests and spiritual sites. Javá Ríos fought 
adamantly to defend his land, despite unstable and precarious 
circumstances. There is a continued need to mitigate violence and 
aggression in this region, which harm the lives of Indigenous Peoples, 
their environment, and their surrounding ecology. Those accused of 
murdering Javá Ríos and injuring other members of the community were 
reported to authorities, but no further investigation has unfolded. Soon 
after Javá Ríos’ murder, however, the Ministry of Justice and Human 
Rights in Peru passed _a Protocol that prioritizes and safeguards human 
rights defenders 
but it is one of many steps remaining to be taken in order to guarantee 
safety of Indigenous Peoples in Peru.

Photo: _Facebook 

* José Alfredo Hernandez  (Nahuat Pipil) - EL SALVADOR*

José Alfredo Hernandez was _killed 
in the service of protecting his sister-in-law, Indigenous activist 
Margot Perez.
Reports reveal that the military police in Nahuizalco harassed Alfredo 
Hernandez after Perez fled her community of Nahuizalco with threats 
against her life. When he did not submit to police – blackmailing him to 
reveal Margot’s whereabouts – Alfredo Hernandez was shot five times 
allegedly by military police and died immediately after, on May 3, 2019. 
His legacy is the continued human rights work that his sister-in-law has 
been able to dedicate her life to, including the promotion of the right 
to Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Indigenous communities, the 
implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of 
Indigenous Peoples. She also has urged the El Salvadoran government to 
halt criminal organizations that have flourished unchecked while 
detrimentally impacting Indigenous youth and their  academic, social, 
and physical potential. As the president of the _Nahuat Pipil Native 
Peoples Council of Nahuizalco 
(Consejo de Pueblos Originarios Nahuat Pipil de Nahuizalco), Margot 
Perez’s courageous advocacy has continued to put her life in jeopardy. 
An_open letter 
written by the The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and addressed to the Office 
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, demanded 
justice and expressed solidarity for the people of El Salvador: Alfredo 
Hernandez’s death remains unsolved and Margot Perez is still in hiding.

*Otilia Martínez Cruz and Gregorio Chaparro Cruz (Rarámuri) - MEXICO*

On the outskirts of Chihuahua and Sinaloa, Mexico, Otilia Martínez Cruz 
(60) and her son Gregorio Chaparro Cruz (20) were _murdered outside 
their home on May 3 
<https://www.jornada.com.mx/2019/05/04/estados/024n1est>_, 2019. The 
mother and son, belonging to the Rarámuri Indigenous Peoples, resonated 
with their community as powerful defenders of surrounding forests and 
advocates for environmental justice. Additionally, they were relatives 
of_Julián Carrillo Martínez 
an Indigenous leader and protector of the Coloradas de la Virgen Forest 
located in Chihuahua, Mexico. Despite being protected under the Federal 
Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders, 
Carrillo Martínez was killed in October 2018 by illegal loggers. 
Speculations pertaining to the motive behind the recent murders of 
Otilia Martínez Cruz and Gregorio Chaparro Cruz believe their 
relationship to Julián Carrillo Martínez is a fundamental component. 
According to investigations, three gunmen affiliated with a criminal 
group “/Los Chorohuis” /broke into the home and and fatally inflicted 
both mother and son with_multiple bullet wounds 
<https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/otilia-martinez-cruz/>_. A witness 
recognized one alleged murderer, _Ramón Muela Loera 
but no updates have been released ascertaining the whereabouts nor 
convictions of the suspects.

* José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián (Nahua) MEXICO*

José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián (Nahua) 
MEXICOOn May 4,2019, both José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto 
Verales Sebstián had attended a meeting with other members of the 
_Emiliano Zapata Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero 
a partner organization under the National Indigenous Congress and 
Indigenous Governing Council. On their way back home from the meeting in 
Chilpancingo, Guerrero, _both were kidnapped and murdered by 
narco-paramilitary groups 
These criminal groups are protected under complicit arms of the Mexican 
government’s marital and police authorities, which inevitably delays 
measures seeking justice. For years, community members of these two 
victims have strived to develop their own _Community Police 
to denounce the criminal groups backed by Mexican authorities, but their 
rights are continuously repressed and disregarded. Bartolo Faustino and 
Verales Sebastián were  well-known participants in the Indigenous 
Council, defenders of Indigenous territories, cultures, and pivotal 
advocates for their Nahua and Mixtec autonomy. Their murder remains 
unsolved; the National Indigenous Congress, Indigenous Governing 
Council, and  Zapatista Army for National Liberation _denounced 
the injustice and demand that the government be held accountable.

Photo: _Facebook 

* Leonel Díaz Urbano (Nahua), MEXICO*

The fatal shooting of Nahua leader Leonel Díaz Urbano took place on May 
9, 2019, while he was sleeping in his home, located in the municipality 
of Zacapoaxtla in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Días Urbano protested the 
continued construction of a hydroelectric plant in Zacapoaxtla. Run by 
the _Hidroeléctrica Gaya SA from Mexico 
backed by governmental actors Semarnat (Mexico’s environmental agency) 
and the Federal Commision of Energy (CFE), conflicts have existed for 
years near the Apulco River. For decades, there was a relentless 
struggle between the Nahua community and Gaya plant; Gaya was 
_officially forced to withdraw 
its construction plans in 2016, but the legitimacy of its compliance 
remain in question and the well-being of Indigenous communities are 
forever damaged. Many of its projects had already led to irreversible, 
environmental destruction while diverting the riverbed off course. A few 
political activists have expressed their grievances for Díaz Urbano. 
_Enrique Cárdenas <https://twitter.com/ecardenassan?lang=en>_, a 
candidate for a local government position, declared shortly after his 
murder that “_the rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities will be 
respected and defended under my term. 
Enrique Cárdenas lost the _May 2019 election 
to Luis Miguel Barbosa, but remains a powerful voice within his 
community. Meanwhile, Díaz Urbano’s  murder remains unsolved.

*Daniel Rojas (Nasa) COLOMBIA*

Daniel Rojas (Nasa) COLOMBIANorth of Cauca, Colombia, the president of 
  the Junta de Acción Comunal (JAC) in Caloto, Daniel Rojas (40), was 
_murdered at around 8 pm in his home 
on May 14, 2019. He was a prominent member of the Indigenous Guard of 
López Adentro in Caloto, remembered for his defense of Indigenous land 
and agricultural rights. He also encouraged _sports practices 
particularly soccer, among his community’s youth to help unify his 
neighbors through sport and culture. Those responsible for the murder 
fled afterwards and no further details have been released pertinent to 
the fugitives’ escape. However, members of the Nasa community are still 
seeking answers, and the _Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern 
stated that the Colombian government’s inaction is one of the primary 
reasons for the murder: the situation has occurred within a systematic 
pattern of threats and attacks against social and Indigenous leaders 
throughout Colombia.

Photo: _Twitter <https://twitter.com/JFColombia/status/1129339624952934406>_

*Jorge Juc Cucul (**Q'eqchi' Maya) - GUATEMALA*

Jorge Juc Cucul was a respected elder and _president 
of a local chapter of  the organization Campesino Development Committee 
or Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA) in Paracaidista de 
Livingston, Izabal. He was attacked with a machete by an unknown man on 
his property near his home, alongside his eight-year-old son. _As a 
CODECA member for 5 years 
Juc Cucul was a frontrunner behind efforts to defend Indigenous 
territories and campesino livelihoods, nationalize electrical energy, 
respect Mother Earth, and criticize the policies and corruption within 
the administration of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. Juc Cucul’s 
murder remains unsolved, as well as other assassinations of Committee 
members. His death was_one of ten total murders 
of CODECA members during 2019, an upsurge from 6 in 2018, which had 
prompted Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on 
the rights of Indigenous Peoples, to _condemn 
the murders in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The startling, increased 
death toll in 2019 revitalizes the need to bring further attention to 
the violent and corrupt acts that target Indigenous Peoples.

* Emyra Wajãpi (Wajãpi) - BRAZIL*

Emyra Wajãpi (Wajãpi) - BRAZILA leader of the Wajãpi tribe, Emyra Wajãpi 
was _ fatally stabbed on July 23 
2019, in his Brazilian village. Community members reported that a few 
dozen armed goldminers, dressed in military fatigues, had raided their 
village, threatening and aggressively intruding upon Wajãpi People and 
homes. Reports from villagers assert that Emyra Wajãpi was stabbed in 
the adjacent woods near his village, and then his corpse was thrown into 
a river. Community members, meanwhile, managed to escape to nearby 
villages and called for help from federal police. Emyra Wajãpi’s death 
epitomizes the inhumane, prejudicial treatment of Indigenous Peoples 
under Brazilian President Bolsonaro, and has rallied many Indigenous 
rights defenders to further demand change. President Bolsonaro launched 
his political platform claiming that Indigenous People _dominate a 
majority of profitable land that should be opened up to corporate 
To this day, police forces and federal agencies designated to protect 
Indigenous rights have failed to ascertain more information about Emyra 
Wajãpi’s murder. Land invasions in Indigenous villages have skyrocketed 
under Bolsonaro’s administration, at the hands of miners, loggers and 
farmers. Emyra Wajãpi’s murder sheds light on the increasing numbers of 
killed Indigenous leaders in the Brazilian amazon, which has escalated 
to a record high in 2019: 10 Indigenous People were murdered, the 
highest amount in two decades. Their murders composed _37% of all rural 
killings in 2019, 
a dramatic increase from 7% in 2018. Even more devastating, _while more 
than 300 murder cases in the past 10 years, only 14 were brought to 
court <https://www.hrw.org/pt/news/2019/09/17/333865>_; many of those 
responsible for the crimes were part of illegal logging and 
deforestation activities.

Photo: _https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/emyra-wajapi/_

*Kevin Mestizo Coicué and Eugenio Tenorio (Nasa) - COLOMBIA*

In the Indigenous region of Cauca, in the southwest of Colombia, two 
Indigenous guards were murdered on August 10, 2019, amidst rising 
violence and instability. Kevin Mestizo Coicué and Eugenio Tenorio 
served as pivotal Nasa community members. Members of the Indigenous 
Guard denounced the bloodshed, _asserting 
“We condemn an act so low, executed by an armed group against these life 
guardians who have defended the territory with their batons.” According 
to a statement, the attack occurred when the two guards accompanied 
participants in a coffee fair in Cauca. As they boarded a bus to the 
fair, all were ambushed, killing Mestizo Coicué  and Tenorio while 
wounding  four others. The murderers are linked to one of many armed, 
illegal narco-trafficking groups that have crippled the region with 
death and have long yet unjustly enjoyed impunity.

*Cristina Bautista - (Nasa) - COLOMBIA*

Cristina Bautista - (Nasa) - COLOMBIANe’h Wesx Authority _Cristina 
and _four members 
of the Nasa Tacueyo Indigenous Reserve – Asdrúbal Cayapu Kiwe Thegna, 
Eliodoro Finscue, José Gerardo Soto, and James Wilfredo Soto – were 
killed; five other members were wounded during a targeted attack on 
October 29, 2019. According to _reports 
a black vehicle with armed members of the FARC dissident group 
"Dagoberto Ramos" _opened fire 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-50233674>_ on Cristina 
Bautista and other guards after plowing through a barricade the 
community had set up to protect their territory. Bautista was a 
traditional leader, social worker, land defender and Indigenous rights 
activist. She was also a 2017 Indigenous Fellow of the Office of the 
High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. On August 13, 
she was filmed making the following speech in Toribio, Resguardo San 
Francisco, Cauca, in which she denounced previous murders of Indigenous 
guards. She _exclaimed 
"If we stay quiet, they kill us, and if we speak, they kill us too. So, 
we speak.” Her murder marked the seventh Indigenous traditional 
authority who was been assassinated in Cauca in the month of October 
2019 alone. Indigenous organizations in Colombia, including the Regional 
Indigenous Council of Colombia (_CRIC 
have been urgently demanding response to this incessant wave of 
violence, which they have labelled a genocide. These demands, however, 
remain unmet by Colombian authorities; Bautista’s murder and other 
casualties are yet to be solved. Her legacy, meanwhile, remains alive, 
and Bautista was commemorated as _Colombia Reports’ personality of 2019 

Photo: _Cristina Bautista/ Facebook_

* Juan Francisco Luna Álvarez (Zenú) - COLOMBIA*

On August 8, 2019, Juan Fransisco Luna Álvarez (60) was _found 
near his rural home in the municipality of San José de Uré, Colombia. 
Authorities, based on the accounts of some witnessesses, believe the 
killers are members of _“Los 
an infamous criminal group of the region with ties to drug trafficking. 
There is a withstanding reward for anyone who has information on the 
whereabouts of those responsible for the crime, but no recent updates 
have been released.  Luna Álvarez was campesino farmer and member of 
the  Indigenous Guard of Zenú del Alto San Jorge. Following his murder, 
Luna Álvarez’s house was _incinerated 
and his family was forced to flee. A few days after the event, 
authorities of the San José de Uré municipality convened _ a security 
to discuss additional measures that could mitigate the growing violence 
against Indigenous Peoples and campesinos in the region. Fransisco 
Luna’s case remains unresolved, and his family still lives in fear of 
further retaliation.

* Abraham Domicó (Embera) - COLOMBIA*

An Indigenous member of the Embera Eyábida community, in Tarazá, 
Colombia, Abraham Domicó was shot and _murdered 
in his home on August 14, 2019, while his wife and children were also 
inside. The family was ambushed by armed men; despite attempts to revive 
Abraham, he was pronounced dead before arriving to the local hospital. 
Domicó (30), was devoted to agricultural practices and justice, a valued 
member of his community, and a loving father of four. Ever since an 
_already-fraying 2016 peace agreement 
between the Colombian government and its once-largest rebel group, 
FARC-EP, there has been a resurgence of violence among Indigenous 
communities in Colombia. Following Domicó’s death, The_Indigenous 
Organization of Antioquia 
Indígena de Antioquia) has called on the United Nations, as well as 
other national and international human rights defenders, to prevent the 
escalation of armed conflict. Friends and family of Domicó still await 

*Mirna Suazo (Garifuna)  - HONDURAS*

Mirna Suazo (Garifuna) - HONDURASMirna Suazo, president of the Masca 
Board of Trustees in Honduras, was _murdered 
inside her restaurant, “Champa Los Gemelos,” when two hitmen disembarked 
their motorcycles and repeatedly shot her on September 8, 2019. Suazo 
had already informed the police that she had received anonymous death 
threats, yet no further investigation nor protection was implemented. 
Suazo was one of four other victims of the Masca Community killed in 
September, many associated with land tenure and management. As 
president, she expressed her frustrations in a _video 
that reflects the corruption – both economic and political – that 
threatened her safety. In the video, she repeatedly asserts that while 
some of her colleagues are personally exploiting their town’s fiscal and 
environmental resources: “I am not working for personal gain, I am 
working for the community. We stay here and we keep fighting for this 
town.” She adamantly rejected the installations of two hydroelectric 
plants on the Masca river, both of which were included in and sponsored 
by the United Nations _MDG Carbon Facility 
_without Free, Prior, and Informed Consent 
Her death has heightened calls for justice, especially by the Honduran 
Black Fraternal Organization (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña, 
which reminds both the national and international community that in 
Honduras there has been unstoppable waves of violence and homicides in 
recent years, but 92% of criminal cases remain in impunity. Suazo’s case 
is one of them.

Photo: _Facebook 

*Paulina Cruz Ruiz (Maya Achi) - GUATEMALA*

Paulina Cruz Ruiz (Maya Achi) - GUATEMALAPaulina Cruz Ruiz (58), member 
of the Autoridad Ancestral de Maya Achi from Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, 
Guatemala _was shot a mere 100 meters from her home 
on September 14, 2019. Her husband was also wounded and spent time in 
the hospital. Cruz Ruiz was an active organizer in her community, 
especially for the “March for Dignity” which took place a year prior to 
her death. She was also dedicated to defending women’s rights. Alongside 
other members of the Autoridad Ancestral, Cruz Ruiz interposed legal 
action in opposition to threats to her community’s land. The Maya Achi 
People have long suffered from the environmental consequences of the 
_Chixoy Dam <https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/233-0>_, funded 
by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development bank and built by 
the Guatemalan government in 1985. Even years later, agreements to 
repair damages have stalled. In January 2014, the US Congress finally 
ordered the Banks to implement the Chixoy Reparations Plan of 2010, but 
improvements are slowly gaining traction and the Maya Achi lives will 
never be fully restored. After Cruz Ruiz’s recent death, her community 
called upon the Guatemalan government to expedite an investigation 
process that will not only bring Cruz Ruiz and her family justice, but 
will protect and guarantee the security of the Autoridad Ancestral. More 
specifically,_La Colectiva 
a nonprofit organization run entirely by the Latinx community, condemned 
the murder, _stating 
“Ancestral authorities are keepers of our traditional ways, Maya justice 
system, and ancestral knowledge and attacking them is a direct attack to 
the core of our peoples and existence. Attacking the women of our 
Nations is the murder of our future generations.” Hundreds of people 
attended Cruz Ruiz’s funeral, more than 50 of whom were Maya Achi 
authorities. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, less than a 
month later a coordinated effort_successfully captured three men 
involved in the murder 
Cruz Ruiz and injury of her husband, but their names were not released.

Photo: _Facebook 

*Víctor Manuel Chanit Aguilar (Murui Muina) - COLOMBIA*

The mayor and Indigenous leader of Murui Muina was _murdered 
by an armed group in his hometown, a rural area in the Colombian Amazon 
on September 26, 2019. Members of the Indigenous community of Bajo Aguas 
Negras Caqueta claim that the national army is responsible for the 
death. They blame the army for the murder because they found footprints 
from military boots near Víctor’s body, and located the body a mere 40 
meters away from where military personnel were stationed. The mayor was 
forcibly kidnapped and later discovered lifeless in a field of banana 
crops, his facial features disfigured and bearing signs of torture. His 
death heightens the risk of the Indigenous community’s cultural and 
physical extinction, as calls for justice and protection pass unnoticed 
by Colombian authorities. The Coordinator of Human Rights and Peace of 
the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon 
(OPIAC) has denounced the murder and sent a formal complaint to the 
Colombian government, demanding for responsibility to be accepted and 
action to be taken. The Murui Munina (Huitoto) community, under a 
Constitutional Court Order, have been identified as an Indigenous group 
_at risk of physical and cultural disappearance 
Other Indigenous communities_have denounced this crime 
and are demanding the reopening of investigations to assure justice.

*Marlon Ferney Pacho (Nasa) - COLOMBIA*

Marlon Ferney Pacho (Nasa) - COLOMBIA
At around 5 pm on September 26, 2019, Marlon  Ferney Pacho, 24, was 
attacked by four armed strangers, who dragged him from his residence 
and_fatally shot him multiple times 
Ferney Pacho was a member of the Nasa community in Colombia. A member of 
the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (_CRIC 
Ferney Pacho had many companions that are now denouncing the 
government’s complacency with armed violence, and are reaching out to 
both local and regional levels of government for immediate action. The 
Consejo denounced the murder, _declaring 
that its community will “continue to make united efforts in order to 
defend the lives and land of each and every one of us...our territory 
nor our people are instruments for the social conflict that unfolds in 
the current colombian climate.” The Indigenous Guard embarked upon 
investigations to track down those responsible for the murder, but no 
leads nor arrests have surfaced.

Photo: _Facebook 

*Milgen Idán Soto Ávila (Tolupán) - HONDURAS*

Milgen Idán Soto Ávila (Tolupán) - HONDURASMilgen Idán Soto Ávilia (29), 
had been a long-time fighter to protect the forests in the Yoro 
mountains of Honduras, despite animosity and pushback from commercial 
logging companies. He was declared missing by neighbors on September 23, 
2019, and _his body was discovered four days later 
Soto Ávila was an Indigenous Tolupán leader from Honduras, and a recent 
member of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (Movimiento Amplio 
por la Dignidad y la Justicia, _MADJ <https://madj.org/>_). Leading up 
to his death, the MADJ director stated that Soto Ávila received threats 
from a logging company named INMARE after he led a movement against its 
exploitative motives in tribal areas. MADJ holds INMARE responsible for 
his murder. His death epitomizes the heightened tension between the 
Indigenous community and INMARE. In past years, many of Soto Ávilia’s 
associates had been arrested for their environmental activism, which 
placed Soto Avilia _into a prominent leadership position 
<https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/milgen-idan-soto-avila/>_ before he 
was killed. Earlier, in February 2019, two of Soto Ávilia’s relatives 
were murdered, also known members of the movements defending Indigenous 
land. A statement from MADJ _declared 
“Soto Avilia was one of the Indigenous People that criticized the 
impunity in his relatives’ crimes...two other Indigenous People 
assassinated and whose murderers remain in total impunity.”

Photo: _https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/milgen-idan-soto-avila/_

*Dumar Mestizo (Nasa) - COLOMBIA*

Dumar Mestizo (Nasa) - COLOMBIAOn October 4, 2019, in the rural area of 
Toribío, Cauca, Colombia was assassinated. Dumar Mestizo (24), an artist 
and an art teacher at the program Youth Guard of Jambaló, (Jóvenes del 
Resguardo de Jambaló) was killed when men on motorcycles attacked and 
shot him. No recent updates pertinent to those responsible for the 
murder have been released. Dumar was an integral member of the Youth 
Movement Álvaro Ulcúe, an organization founded in 1980 whose mission is 
to educate Indigenous communities about different art forms. Mestizo was 
a muralist, and used his art as a form of expression for peace and 
resistance. A _mural 
was painted to commemorate Mestizo’s life. In 2009, Dumar’s father, 
Indigenous Nasa leader Marino Mestizo, had also been murdered in Cauca. 
The North Cauca Indigenous Association _denounced 
both murders: “we hold responsible the Colombian government for showing 
total indifference to the incidents of genocide facing Indigenous 
People.” A neighbor remembered Mestizo as an always-smiling boy who was 
drawn to art at a young age, as a form of self-expression and identity. 
As he grew older, Mestizo’s art took on socio-political meaning and 
activism. For example, some of his murals was accompanied with 
such as these: “Podrán matarnos, pero nunca callarán nuestras voces” 
(They might kill us, but we will never quiet our voices). Dumar 
Mestizo’s death revives that crisis that many Indigenous Peoples are 
enduring in Cauca, which debilitates any peace-building or unity among 

Photo: _Facebook 

*Isaías Cantú Carrasco (Mè’phàà) - MEXICO*

Isaías Cantú Carrasco (Mè’phàà) - MEXICOAs the president of the 
Commission of Public Goods of Paraje Montero, the president of the 
municipality of Malinaltepec, and a member of the Regional Council of 
Agrarian Authorities in Defense of the Territory (CRAADT), _Isaías 
<https://www.jornada.com.mx/2019/10/19/opinion/018o1pol>_ Cantú Carrasco 
was a prominent defender of Indigenous rights and environmental justice. 
Cantú Carrasco was _killed 
with a firearm near the region’s police station on October 11, 2019, but 
regretfully no more information about the murder nor the culprits have 
been released. During the seven years prior to his murder, Cantú 
Carrasco ignited a fight against mining exploitation and the imposition 
of a Biosphere Reserve in the Mè’phàà Indigenous region, located in the 
Guerrero mountains._In a press release 
<http://www.crisisclimaticayautonomia.org/declaraciones/84>_, the 
Regional Council condemned the National Commission of Natural Protected 
Areas (CONAP) and its promotion of the Biosphere Reserve, stating on 
behalf of Me’phaa and other Indigenous communities: “it implies that the 
federal government takes control of our ancestral territories; subject 
us to regulations that are alien to our forms of community organization, 
prohibiting our traditional activities related to the use and enjoyment 
of our natural assets.” The press release also identified Casmin and 
Hochschild Mining as the companies behind the mining projects that are 
damaging Indigenous lands. The Mexican Network of  those Affected by 
Mining, (Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería, REMA) _denounced 
Cantú Carrasco’s death and commemorated him for his tireless activism as 
a vocal defender and protector of his Indigenous Mè’phàà roots and 

  Photo: _Twitter 

*Oneida Epiayú (Wayúu) - COLOMBIA*

Oneida Epiayú (Wayúu) - COLOMBIAOneida Epiayú, a leader in the Wayúu 
Community, was murdered in broad daylight on October 17, 2019, while 
eating lunch at a restaurant in Riohacha, Colombia. Two men entered the 
restaurant, still wearing their motorcycle helmets, to approach, shoot, and


Epiayú. The attackers also gravely  injured four other people, including 
her husband José González and a 12-year-old child. Epiayú was known for

_revealing supposed corruption 

in certain food programs executed under the Colombian Family Welfare 
Institute (ICBF). However, it is unclear whether or not the asassination 
was intended for her or her husband, and further investigations have yet 
to be publicized.

Photo source:


*Paulo Paulino Guajajara (Guajajara) - BRAZIL*

The Indigenous Amazon Forest Guard Paulo Paulino Guajajara had_predicted 
his imminent death 
fatefully occurring on November 1, 2019, for being one of nearly 130 
“guardians of the forest” or armed Indigenous sentinels. While fetching 
water with a fellow colleague, Laércio Souza Silva, Paulino Guajajara 
was shot in the neck by armed loggers and died in the forest, while his 
companion managed to escape. As an Amazon Guardian of Brazil, Paulino 
Guajajara was relentless in defending his eastern Amazon territory, 
despite threats and invasions by loggers. An acquaintance of Paulino 
Guajajara _declared <https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12253>_: 
“He knew that he might pay with his life, but he saw no alternative, as 
the authorities did nothing to protect the forest and uphold the rule of 
law.” Paulino Guajajara’s death is emblematic of the drastic Amazonian 
deforestation under Brazilian President Bolsonaro, with has destabilized 
thousands of Indigenous Peoples and their surrounding environment. 
Additionally, perpetrators of the violence have not been punished and 
Paulino Guajajara’s death has not received justice.

*Jesús Eduardo Mestizo  (Nasa) - COLOMBIA*

Jesús Dumar Mestizo was attacked and[1] _fatally shot 
strangers in the rural area of Toribío, located in Cauca Colombia, right 
outside of his home. In addition to his murder, there was an 
assassination attempt on the coordinator of the Indigenous guard of the 
Toribío village, Arbey Noscue, who managed to flee unharmed. Jesús’s 
death was registered as the _seventh 
homicide within a single week in the Cauca region of Colombia. Jesús 
Eduardo Mestizo was a _member and co-founder 
of the Asociación Indígena Avelino Ui. The Association is also involved 
with the Proceso de Unidad Popular del Suroccidente Colombiano (PUPSOC) 
and the social organization and coordination of the Patriotic March 
(_Marcha Patriótica <https://www.marchapatriotica.org/>_). Those 
responsible for Dumar Mestizo’s murder are still unknown.

*Arnulfo Cerón Soriano (Nahua) - MEXICO*

Arnulfo Cerón Soriano (Nahua) - MEXICOAfter being declared missing for 
40 days, the 47-year-old activist and lawyer was found _dead 
along the Tlapa-Igualita highway, in the Mexican state of Guerrero. 
Arnulfo Cerón Soriano was a member of the Nahua Indigenous community, 
and a prominent social leader of the Frente Popular de la Montaña (_FPM 
He was kidnapped by an armed group on the night of October 11, 2019, 
after leaving his house that night to attend an event which he failed to 
arrive at. During his social advocacy career,  Cerón Soriano endured 
consistent smear campaigns and discrediting backlash but continued to 
fight alongside other human rights activists up until the end. He is 
remembered as an integral component to the dangerous yet necessary 
endeavors of the Frente Popular to _mobilize 
Indigenous communities, collaborate with the _Tlachinollan Mountain 
Human Rights Center 
and defend his community. Cerón Soriano’s case has not been solved.

Photo: _Facebook 

*Catalino Barradas Santiago (Chatino) - MEXICO*

On November 30, 2019, policemen from the Santo Reyes Nopala municipality 
in Oaxaca, Mexico _murdered 
Catalino Barradas Santiago (32),  and injured two other individuals. 
Barradas Santiago belonged to the Chatino Indigenous community and was a 
notable human rights defender. He was travelling with other colleagues 
the night of the assassination. Testimonies from police who were 
involved in the murder defended their actions, stating that the 
travelers were proselytizing illegally which justified the policemen’s 
decision to pull them over and open fire on the victims. Some of the 
group were able to escape to the mountains; Barradas Santiago was the 
only reported fatality. Barradas Santiago’s murder occurred only days 
before the _municipal elections 
in the region, causing the election day – scheduled for December 1st – 
to be suspended. Despite the fact that Santos Reyes Nopala, Oaxaca 
municipality has a traditional, Chatino government, it is often 
corrupted by other external political leaders who indirectly control and 
organize overt force to suppress the rights of the Indigenous Chatino 
community. As a result, Barradas Santiago’s murder has mostly been 
ignored by authorities, who have not prioritized seeking justice for him.

*Josué Bernardo Marcial Santos (Mixe-Popoluca) - MEXICO*

Josué Bernardo Marcial Santos (Mixe-Popoluca) - MEXICOKnown as Tío Bad 
on stage, the  rapper from the town of Sayula de Alemán in Veracruz, 
Mexico, was _murdered 
on December 19, 2019, after kidnappers demanded a ransom that was unmet. 
He used the power of musical and artistic expression to condemn the slow 
extinction of his native Mixe-Popoluca language, the murders of 
journalists, the narco-trafficking forces in Veracruz, and the 
exploitative fracking in his local area. He rapped in his native 
language of Sayulteca, one of many Indigenous languages in Mexico that 
has been threatened due to marginalization, migration of youth, and 
globalization. Not only did Tío Bad’s music revive the fading 
connections between older and younger generations, it vocalized and 
disseminated the many injustices and prejudices experienced by  his 
Indigenous community across a diverse audience. He was also an engaged 
member of the Altepee Collective, a group that preserves and promotes 
traditional string music. His legacy remains indelible among his 
community, but those responsible for his death have not been found, let 
alone detained.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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