PCFS condemns killing of peasant leader in Mexico, asks UNHRC to investigate

The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty, an international group of rural peoples organizations, denounced the brutal murder of farmer leader Tomás Martínez Pinacho last Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 in Sierra Sur, Mexico. The group urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the continuing killings of activist leaders in Mexico.

Pinacho, leader and founder of the Union of Poor Peasants, was assassinated after taking part in a public rally in the city of Oaxaca. He was about to eat in a taqueria in the municipality of Ánimas Trujano when unarmed persons shot him to death.

“It’s appalling that a peasant leader would be murdered in cold blood right after they demanded food, work, and access to healthcare. We mourn with the poor farmers of Mexico at the loss of one of the great sons of the peasant movement,” said Sylvia Mallari, global co-chairperson of PCFS.

The public rally that Pinacho led was called the “Day of Struggle for health, bread, work and social security for the peoples.” Poor farmers and rural peoples marched to the capital to demand the construction of clinics in the communities, the provision of personnel, medical equipment and sanitary supplies, the delivery of economic and food subsidies for the workers, the development of community projects to guarantee work and technical assistance, and agricultural supplies for the poor peasant, among others.

Local activist organizations have already said that his killing was not an isolated case; it adds to a long list of activists being gunned down in Oaxaca. Last June, 15 people were abducted, tortured, and massacred after attending a rally in Huazantlán del Río, Oaxaca against a windfarm tied to local politicians. The Popular Revolutionary Front, which Pinacho was a member, called for the resignation of the municipal mayor Genaro Hernández and the immediate disbanding of paramilitary goons “under his command.”

“In the midst of the pandemic, farmers are at the frontlines of feeding the world. Yet, the increase in peasant killings tied to land and resource grabbing shows how unequal and unjust our food systems are,” said Mallari.

According to the annual report of watchdog group Global Witness, at least 212 people were killed in 2019 for defending their land. The report notes that landgrabbing for “agribusiness and oil, gas and mining” are the main drivers of the killings.

In the Philippines, the group’s identified deadliest country for environmental defenders, at least four peasant leaders and rights defenders were slain by suspected state forces in the past month alone. Among them is veteran peasant leader Randall Echanis, who was tortured and killed defenselessly in the wee hours of Aug. 10, 2020. PCFS also called the UN to initiate an independent probe on the rampant killings in the country. Over 60 organizations issued the same call this week.

“We stand in solidarity with the rural peoples of Oaxaca and the Global South in the call for justice and an end to the needless killings of our food producers,” Mallari added. ###

(Photo from NVI Noticias. Erratum: an edit was made to replace UN Human Rights Commission to UN Human Rights Council.)

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