Mexico City, Mexico — Earlier this month, researchers and environmentalists Álvaro Arvizu Aguiñiga and Cuauhtémoc Márquez Fernández from Tlalmanalco, a small town about an hour southeast of Mexico City, were murdered in what appears to be a coordinated attack. Both were working on preserving the region’s natural resources before their murder.
On the night of June 12, Márquez Fernández, a researcher in agroecology and beekeeping, was shot at his home. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but he succumbed to his injuries.
Just hours later, during the early morning of June 13, unknown assailants broke into the Center for Sustainability Incalli Ixcahuicopa (CENTLI), a research facility in Tlalmanalco supported by the Metropolitan Autonomous University (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana), and attacked Arvizu Aguiñiga.
The armed men shot at Aguiñiga and attacked his wife and other employees present at the time, beating them and tying up their hands and feet.
Aguiñiga was taken to the hospital but died days later, on June 19.
Through a press release, the Zeferino Ladrillero Human Rights Center (CDHZF) denounced the gruesome killings and urged state authorities to investigate the double homicide and ensure security for the rest of the team at the CENTLI facility, especially for Aguiñiga’s wife, who was also his colleague and co-researcher.
“The preceding makes evident the serious risk faced by human rights defenders in Mexico and particularly in the State of Mexico, which has become one of the most dangerous states for the defense of human rights,” read the statement.
In 2022, the international NGO Global Witness labeled Mexico as the most dangerous country for environmentalists. Reporting 54 murders of land defenders, activists for natural resources and the environment throughout the country in 2021.
Additionally, the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) documented more than 582 aggressions against environmentalists and 24 murders of environmentalists in 2022.
As a member of CENTLI, an initiative funded by the Sierra Nevada Research Center of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), Aguiñiga fought to preserve the region’s water and offered courses on composting, greenhouses, and agriculture.
So far, the Mexican prosecution has not issued any details on their investigation or if there are any suspects. However, some have pointed out that Aguiñiga’s murder is related to his work defending the water in the volcanic zone.
Reportedly, Aguiñiga’s group was part of a national movement involving different organizations pressing for legal initiatives to secure water resources in the state.