A human rights defender and an indigenous leader disappeared on the Colima-Michoacán border

A human rights defender and an indigenous leader disappeared on the Colima-Michoacán border

Activist Ricardo Lagunes and community leader Antonio Díaz.Activist Ricardo Lagunes and community leader Antonio Díaz.RR.SS.

Human rights defender Ricardo Lagunes Gasca and indigenous leader Antonio Díaz Valencia disappeared on the border between the states of Michoacán and Colima last Sunday night. The two men had held a work meeting that day and were leaving together towards the municipality of Tecomán when they lost track. The white van they were traveling in was later abandoned and found with gunshot wounds in the town of Cerro de Ortega, 16 miles from their original destination. The authorities have initiated investigations and have not yet provided any further information on the whereabouts of the activists.

Díaz Valencia, 71, is a teacher and a member of the Nahua indigenous community in San Miguel de Aquila. In his work as an activist, he has sharply criticized the development of the Aquila mine, which has been active since 1998. According to the disappearance file issued by the Michoacán Public Prosecutor’s Office, Díaz Valencia telephoned a relative around 6:45 p.m. on the Sunday they disappeared, informing him that he was going to the municipality of Coahuayana in Michoacán, accompanied by Lagoons Gasca. That was the last communication he had and he has been missing ever since.

Lagoons Gasca is a lawyer and has worked with various national and international human rights organizations. He has a master’s degree in human rights protection from the University of Alcalá in Madrid and has been working as a defense attorney in Mexico for more than 15 years. According to the family, at the time of the disappearance he was “performing a legal escort in the indigenous community of Aquila, where mining is taking place”. The families of the two men met with federal authorities at the National Palace in Mexico City on Tuesday to ask for help in the search.

Ivette Morales Lagunes and Raquel Camacho Lagunes, cousins ​​of the activist, during a sit-in in front of the National Palace this Wednesday.Ivette Morales Lagunes and Raquel Camacho Lagunes, cousins ​​of the activist, during a sit-in in front of the Hector Guerrero National Palace this Wednesday

Lagoons Gasca last contacted him from a supermarket called Gómez in Coahuayana at 6:52 p.m. this Sunday, according to the complaint filed by friends and family with the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH), and he said that they had already been on the way to Colima. At around 7:25 p.m., an hour and a half later, Colima authorities received a report of an abandoned and shot-up vehicle in Cerro de Ortega, which they would later confirm was the location where the two disappeared people were traveling. so the complaint. While in Morelia, Díaz Valencia’s two sons filed a complaint about the disappearance after receiving several calls that night “asking for money in exchange for Ricardo’s life [Lagunes]“.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico noted that at least one of the two defenders received state protections “which could not prevent his disappearance.” “The UN-DH urges the authorities to take all necessary measures as a matter of urgency to carry out their duty to search for the living defenders of Lagunes and Díaz, to ensure efficient coordination between federal and local institutions and to recognize the right of their dependents to participate Search,” says the statement from the international organization. “It is also essential to conduct a timely, comprehensive and effective investigation that will enable the facts to be clarified and all those responsible to be punished.”

The search poster for Díaz and Lagunes during a protest to demand their appearance in front of the National Palace on January 18, 2023.The search poster for Díaz and Lagunes, during a protest to demand their appearance in front of the National Palace, January 18, 2023. Hector Guerrero

Other human rights organizations have stressed the need to investigate the possibility that these enforced disappearances are linked to the two men’s work in the region. “We express our concern at the disappearance of human rights defenders Ricardo Arturo Lagoons Gasca and Antonio Díaz Valencia. We demand that the Michoacán and Colima authorities carefully investigate, that they include their defense work in their investigative lines,” Amnesty International urged on social media.

Mexico became the world’s deadliest country to defend the Earth in 2021. Killings of environmentalists have not stopped escalating in recent years. The latest figures show that 54 people who defended their environment, natural resources or country have been murdered in the country, according to the latest report from Global Witness, which conducts an annual count of these crimes. The unofficial counts indicate that the numbers for 2022 will rise again significantly.

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