Environmental activist Homero Gómez found dead in Michoacán
He was last seen on Jan 13 – Photo: Víctor Hugo Ortiz/EL UNIVERSAL

Environmental activist Homero Gómez found dead in Michoacán

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Mexico City
Stefanie Eschenbacher, Lizbeth Díaz, Diego Ore & Sandra Maler/REUTERS & Carlos Arrieta/EL UNIVERSAL
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Monarch butterfly advocate Homero Gómez González was last seen on January 13

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Two weeks after he disappeared, the environmental activist Homero Gómez, who fought to protect the famed monarch butterfly, has been found dead in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, a local authority said.

It was not immediately clear how Gómez had died though his disappearance sparked an outcry in an increasingly violent country where activists are routinely threatened, harmed or even killed as a result of their work.

Michoacán’s attorney general confirmed his death. One source at the state attorney’s office, who declined to be named, told Reuters the cause of death had not been determined but that an initial review had found no signs of torture.

The president of the Board of Directors of the El Rosario Common Land, in the municipality of Ocampo and of the biggest Monarch butterfly sanctuary, Homero Gómez González, was reported missing by his family on January 13.

According to the record issued by the State Attorney General’s Office, the environmental activist was last seen on January 13 at 17:00 in El Soldado.

People close to Gómez González informed that the agricultural engineer left a meeting and disappeared.

Over 200 volunteers from the municipality joined the search for the activist.

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The Municipal Police, Michoacán’s Public Security Ministry, and common land authorities also joined in the search.

The last connection to Whatsapp from Gómez’s cellphone took place on Tuesday at 16:43.

On Wednesday morning, messages promoting the Monarch butterfly sanctuary were sent from his cellphone to all his contacts.

The State Commission for Human Rights (CEDH) urged authorities to intensify the search of the Monarch butterfly advocate

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Through a statement, the CEDH made a call for personnel of Zitácuaro’s Regional Investigative Unit to be alert on the investigations of the case and to provide the corresponding accompaniment to the relatives of the activist should they require it.

The coordinator of Legal Orientation, Complaints, and Monitoring Ángel Botello Ortiz began the opening of the file MOR/037/2020 to carry out the corresponding legal proceedings.

The latter, said the organism, along with the different departments of the state public administration so as to contribute to the search for Homero Gómez.

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The CEDH asked justice authorities not to dismiss the link to Gómez’s activism in the investigation that is being carried out to determine the reasons for his disappearance.

Simultaneously, the organism urged for there to be the necessary protection measures for the family of the activist.

“This organism will keep alert to the progress on the investigations and reaffirms its commitment for the defense and protection of human rights of people in Michoacán,” says the document.

On January 20, a Mexican human rights organization urged authorities to investigate the disappearance of the environmental activist, suggesting the case may be linked to illegal logging in the area.

The organization asked the Attorney General’s Office to determine if Gomez’s disappearance is linked to his role in defending Mexico’s forests, commission official Mayte Cardona told Reuters.

“He was probably hurting the (business) interests of people illegally logging in the area,” Cardona said.

Illegal logging and trafficking is rife in Michoacán, a state plagued by organized crime.

“The investigation is ongoing,” a source with the state prosecutor said.

Environmentalists say illegal logging hurts the habitat of the monarch butterfly, which migrates thousands of kilometers from Canada across the United States to reproduce in Mexico.

Urging the protection of their habitat, the reserve El Rosario Ocampo Michoacán, Gómez became best known among Mexicans for posting mesmerizing videos and photos of the orange and black butterflies on social media.

Millions of these butterflies make a 3,220 km journey each year from Canada to winter in central Mexico’s warmer weather. However, the insects are facing new challenges linked to extreme weather and changing habitat.

Michoacán state is home to the country’s largest monarch butterfly reserve, a World Heritage Site, as well as many rival drug gangs who battle to control smuggling routes through often-arid terrain to the Pacific and the interior of the country.

Did you know enforced disappearance is Mexico's worst tragedy?


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