Mexico CityKillings of land and environmental activists rose in 2017 as Mexico and the Philippines registered worrying increases in such murders and Brazil saw the most ever registered in a single country, a watchdog group said Tuesday.
At least 207 people who were protecting land and resources from business interests were slain last year, up from 201 the year before, according to Global Witness. That makes 2017 the deadliest year since the group began formally recording such deaths in 2015.
The group said that its figures were almost certainly vast underestimates because of the difficulties of identifying and confirming such killings. In many cases, consumer demand is helping drive the pressures as agribusinesses expand production of coffee, palm oil, sugar cane and other cash crops. For the first time, more activists were killed in confrontations with agribusiness as opposed to mining interests, the report said.
“The number of killings is continuing to rise, which is stark evidence that governments and business are still not prioritizing this issue and have not showed any seriousness in tackling it,” Ben Leather, the report’s author, told The Associated Press.
The fact that more deadly conflicts were associated with agribusiness for the first time “should serve as a wake-up call to those businesses and to those investing in large-scale agriculture that they need to be better, too, and ensure that their money isn’t funding this violence,” he added. In Mexico, murders in the country hit a record high since comparable statistics began to be kept in the 1997.
Global Witness linked the spike in activists’ killings to organized crime and a generalized climate of impunity, saying the government is failing to implement protective measures and laws on environmental governance.