Being an environmental activist in Latin America is incredibly dangerous. For several years in a row, Latin America has been one of the deadliest places to be a land and environment defender. Following news that Samir Flores Soberanes, a member of the Náhuatl group, was assassinated, his allies and fellow activists have said he was targeted for his activism. His death came days before a referendum, taking place over the weekend, on a thermal-electric plant and pipeline that he fought against.
Flores was shot two times in the head in his home in Amilcingo on Wednesday. Uriel Carmona, Morelos’ state prosecutor, said the murder isn’t tied to his activism and that investigators think it might be connected to organized crime. Carmona said a letter at the scene gives investigators reason to believe it was gang-related.
However, Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y Agua Morelos-Puebla,Tlaxcala (FPDTA-MPT) said Flores had no other enemies other than the people behind Proyecto Integral Morelos. “This is a political crime for the human rights defense that Samir and the FPDTA carried out against the [project] and for people’s autonomy and self-determination,” the statement said, according to The Guardian.
Flores along with others pushed against the pipeline – first proposed in 2011 – because they fear it’ll contaminate the water supplies that the Indigenous communities that live nearby need. In light of Flores’ death, FPDTA has called for the vote to be postponed, but Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has shown support for the project, said it will still take place this weekend.