27th November, 2023, London - On 25th November, the Indigenous leader and renowned Mexican land and environmental defender Higinio Trinidad de la Cruz was found dead at a farm in the Ayotitlán Indigenous community near his hometown of Jalisco, northwest Mexico. His abduction was reported to the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and to the National Human Rights Commission  on 24th November.

Higinio was an Indigenous Ayotitlán and a councillor of the State Indigenous Council in Jalisco. He carried out sustainable development projects with international institutions and promoted land rights for Indigenous and local communities threatened by destructive mining projects and illegal logging.

We stand with Tsikini AC – a non-profit organisation that promotes human rights, and land and environmental rights in Mexico - and condemn this brutal attack on the Ayotitlán community.

Javier Garate, US Policy Advisor at Global Witness, said:

“We support Tsikini and call on Federal authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the killing of Higinio Trinidad de la Cruz. We are also calling for them to provide protection for Higinio’s family and environmental advocates within the Ayotitlán community – especially within the Cauatitlán Garcia area, where communities face being uprooted by mining and illegal logging.

“As world leaders gather at COP28 this week, we urge them to put the rights of land and environmental defenders around the world at the centre of their discussions. Their role in protecting the planet must be recognised, starting by giving them a seat at the COP negotiation table.”

Higinio is not the first leader in the Indigenous Ayotitlán community to be attacked after speaking out against environmental harms caused by destructive business and megaprojects in Jalisco. In April 2021, Indigenous leader and lawyer José Santos Isaac Chávez was brutally murdered. He was candidate to the Ejidal Commissariat of Ayotitlán - a local elected body created to manage the Indigenous territories and coordinate actions with communities. Local reporters and activists allege disappearances and murders related to opposition to nearby mining projects, for which no one has been charged. 

Between 2012 and 2022, 185 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Mexico. We urgently call on the Mexican government and Attorney General’s office to take appropriate measures to establish a safe environment for defenders across the country. We also call for a robust investigation into Higinio’s murder and the wider violence perpetrated against Ayotitlán communities. It is vital that the perpetrators of this brutal attack are brought to justice, and that reparations paid to Indigenous survivors of violence.