November 27, 2021 marks 12 years since the assassination of Mexican environmental defender Mariano Abarca. As a founding member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA) and community leader, Mariano actively spoke out against the social and environmental impacts of a barite mining project in his community of Chicomuselo, Chiapas. His assassins were employed and/or contracted by the Canadian company that operated the mine, Blackfire Exploration.
This year is particularly significant. On November 8, Mariano’s family and supporters made their final petition before the Federal Court of Appeal for an investigation into the role the Canadian embassy in Mexico may have played in endangering Mariano’s life. Over a thousand pages of documents obtained through Access to Information requests reveal that the Canadian embassy advocated with Mexican authorities to advance Blackfire’s operations, knowing that Mariano’s life was in danger. Had the embassy acted differently, Mariano might still be alive today.
Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has yet to decide whether it will recommend an investigation into the embassy’s actions or side with corporate impunity. Meanwhile, environmental defenders in Mexico continue to face violence for defending their territories and water in the face of extractivist capitalism.
Mariano’s commitment to life has served as an inspiration for the annual “Mariano Abarca” Environmental Defence Award, presented every November 27, which recognizes a Chiapas-based local organization on behalf of 35 Mexican and international civil society organisations.
This year, in honour of Mariano’s memory, the Mariano Abarca Environmental Award is being presented to la Sociedad Civil Las Abejas de Acteal, an Indigenous organisation working since 1992 in defence of their territory and human rights, keeping true to the vision and life of Mariano.
La Sociedad Civil Las Abejas de Acteal advocates for justice, peace and self-determination. They defend the rights of the Indigenous Maya Tsotsil and Tseltal peoples and support other social and Indigenous movements’ struggles for social and environmental justice, including the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and the School of Energy Justice that brings together communities and organizations from Chiapas and Guatemala who resist megadams and work in the construction of a new popular energy model.
In this sense, they have been fighting against the militarization of their territories, as mega-development projects like hydroelectric dams and the Tren Maya are being imposed. These projects threaten to further dispossess and displace them from their land for the benefit of transnational companies. Their peaceful resistance has so far stopped an oil exploration project.
In 1997, a paramilitary group killed 45 of its members who had taken shelter in Acteal in what became known as the Massacre of Acteal. In the context of heightened violence in Mexico, and in particular, in the state of Chiapas, Las Abejas has become a much-needed shelter for communities fleeing for their lives from armed groups and state armed forces.
This year’s Mariano Abarca award comes as one of Las Abejas former presidents, Simón Pedro Pérez López, was murdered in front of his son on July 5, 2021. Simón had spoken out in support of communities negatively affected by hydroelectric dams and mining projects. Today, communities are not only seeking justice for the massacre of Acteal, but also for Simón Pedro Pérez.
La Sociedad Civil Las Abejas de Acteal is a source of inspiration and an example of peaceful resistance for all those who fight against dispossession, displacement, militarization and extractive mega-projects in Chiapas. We, the undersigned organization, express our solidarity with them and call on Mexican authorities to initiate an impartial and exhaustive investigation for Simón Pedro’s murder and bring those responsible to justice.
Twelve years after the murder of Mariano, we stand in solidarity with his family and commit to continue to support their efforts for justice.
- Acción Colectiva Socioambiental, A.C. - Mexico
- Americas Policy Group - Canada
- Amnesty International
- Articulación por la vida en contra de la minería en el Valle de Ocotlán - Mexico
- Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN) - Canada
- Christian Peacemaker Teams - Canada
- CoDevelopment Canada
- Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL) - Canada
- Frente Popular en Defensa del Soconusco (FPDS) - Chiapas, Mexico
- Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) - Argentina
- Institute for Policy Studies - USA
- Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) - Canada
- Mining Justice Action Committee - Canada
- Mining Justice Alliance (MJA) - Canada
- MiningWatch Canada
- Movimiento Victoriano Lorenzo - Panama
- Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH) - Honduras
- Procesos Integrales para la Autogestión de los Pueblos (PIAP) - Mexico
- Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG) - Canada
- Rainforest Rescue
- Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativa en México (RAPAM) Pesticide Action Network in Mexico
- Red Latina sin fronteras
- Salva la Selva/Rainforest Rescue/Rettet den Regenwald – Spain/Germany
- Skylight Pictures - USA
- United Steelworkers - Canada
- WITNESS - USA