The brutal assassination of human rights defender Francisco Vazquez in Morelos, Mexico, by unidentified armed men should prompt the authorities to hold those responsible accountable and put a stop to these senseless acts of violence against human rights defenders and others, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS said today.
Francisco was a water rights defender and a member of a group of activists who opposed the construction of a Huexca thermoelectric plant. He was murdered on 14 February 2022 while working on a farm and had complained of death threats against him a day before.
The murder of Francisco was preceded by the brutal assassination of women human rights defender Ana Luisa Garduño in the town of Temixco Morelos by an unknown individual. She is the founder of Ana Karen Lives’ Collective, an association that advocates for justice for the femicide of her daughter - Ana Karen Huicochea and other victims of femicide in Mexico. These assassinations have often been preceded by threats, acts of intimidation and harassment of the victims and their families and the authorities have done little to investigate these crimes even when they are reported.
The Mexican authorities can no longer be indifferent in the face of the brutal killings of peaceful human rights defenders and must conduct an impartial investigation into the brutal assassination of Francisco Vazquez, Ana Luisa Garduño and others like them and bring the culprits to justice. Said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS.
Francisco’s brutal assassination is similar to the killing of environmental and indigenous rights defender Samir Flores who advocated against the construction of the same thermal power station as Francisco and was killed a few days before a referendum on the project on 20 February 2019. Samir was a human rights defender and producer for a community radio station who advocated against the Proyecto integral Morelos. Since the start of 2022, four journalists - José Luis Gamboa Arenas, Lourdes Maldonado, Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel and Roberto Toledo have been killed in Mexico for doing their job.
Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places for human rights defenders and journalists to work in, and decisive action must be taken by the Mexican authorities to deter others from committing the same crimes. David Kode Continued
The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Mexico as repressed.
Over the last several years, there has been a marked increase in the killings of human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico. Women human rights defenders, including those who denounce femicide, have been particularly targeted, and journalists are killed because of the work they do. The Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists set up in 2012 has made significant strides in protecting human rights defenders and provided safe houses for some over the years. Still, the work of the Mechanism has been severely impacted by the lack of funding. Authorities do not often carry out adequate investigations when human rights defenders are targeted by state and non-state actors, and the lack of accountability for human rights abuses fuels impunity.