November 27, 2019, marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of Mariano Abarca Roblero, environmental activist who defended human rights and the rights of nature in Chicomuselo municipality, Chiapas, Mexico, by denouncing the socioenvironmental effects caused by Canadian mining corporation Blackfire Exploration, involved in the crime.
Since then, the relatives of Abarca and several organizations have been demanding the Mexican and Canadian governments justice and punishment for those responsible. They make reference to the proven corrupt actions by the company, the acts and omissions by the Canadian Embassy which may have contributed with the murder of Mariano, as well as acts of impunity against the Mexican government. The case was also brought before Canadian courts and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
To remember Mariano Abarca and analyze the current situation of environmental and human rights defenders in Mexico, Real World Radio interviewed José Luis Abarca, Mariano´s son.
“Our demands for justice won´t give us our father back, but this is a struggle to stop the murders of environmental and human rights defenders. It is necessary to highlight the lack of interest by Mexican state and federal governments. That´s why we continue demanding justice, because we don´t want murders to go on with total impunity, as it happens in Mexico and the region.”
José Luis Abarca stressed that environmental protection is a responsibility of the governments and that people like his father, who raise their voices and defend rights are “silenced”.
Mariano Abarca went 10 years ago to the Canadian Embassy to denounce the harassment exerted by mining company Black Fire against communities in Chiapas. The response was to imprison him and later murder him. A decade later, his family continues appealing in Mexican and Canadian courts to demand justice. In 2018, the relatives of the activist filed a complaint to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada where they requested an investigation about the action and inaction of the Embassy in Mexico. The request was denied, so they appealed the judicial decision about the case at the Canadian Federal Court. The Canadian government acknowledged there was omission when they denied the investigation and let the case remain in impunity.
“We were expecting more from the Canadian authorities, since we provided strong evidence, such as the relationship between the Canadian Embassy and Black Fire and the government of Chiapas. The Canadian Embassy in Mexico monitored my father since 2007, but they supported the mining company to push the government and have my father imprisoned.”
The case is still ongoing: “We´ve filed an appeal (to the decision by the Canadian federal authorities to deny an investigation) and we will continue fighting for all defenders who have struggled against transnational corporations. We expect a favorable ruling, possibly in early 2020”, concluded José Luis Abarca.
“With the purpose of thanking, recognizing and making visible other collective and organized struggles of those who do not cease to defend life, the environment and collective rights that are, after all, for the benefit of Humanity”, organizations such as Otros Mundos Chiapas and Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) commemorated the 10th anniversary of the murder of Mariano Abarca with the “Mariano Abarca Award” granted in recognition to environmental defense in Chiapas.
The Mariano Abarca Award 2019 was granted to indigenous organization MODEVITE (the Movement in Defense of Life and the Territory) which is present in 11 municipalities of Chiapas state.