Saturday, January 25, 2020

Homero Gómez's kidnapping just the latest of many in lawless Mexico

You would think that being a butterfly conservationist would be a relatively serene and safe vocation, would't you? Not in Mexico, apparently.
Homero Gómez, an outspoken environmental activist and manager of the world-renowned Rosario monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán state in the mountains of central Mexico, has been reported as missing, almost certainly kidnapped by illegal logging interests in the area. Local loggers have been incensed at Mr. Gómez's constant activism against logging for some years. He was last heard from on January 13th but, according to the usual MO of these incidents, he is unlikely to ever surface again.
Rosario is a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, and its pine forests are critical for the survival of the monarch butterflies that we see migrating south from Canada every fall. Logging in the region is mainly clear-cutting for the establishment of cash crops like avocados - you might want to think about that the next time you buy Mexican avocados, I know I will. Much of it is run by criminal gangs and cartels, the likes of which are rife in increasingly lawless rural Mexico, and their activities range from drug and human trafficking to extortion, logging and mining. An estimated 60,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006, mainly due to drug cartels and organized crime groups, but also apparently to the security forces themselves. Western Michoacán state - where we are due to visit just next week in order to see those very same monarch butterflies - is described by the BBC as "notorious for its violent criminal gangs". Could be an interesting trip.

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