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Anti-mining activists assassinated in Chihuahua, Mexico

(CENCOS/IFEX) - In a letter addressed to the Interior Ministry, members of El Barzón, an agricultural producers movement, condemned the assassination of two of their colleagues in Chihuahua and called for justice. El Barzón is a national association that represents the owners of small and medium-sized farms.

Ismael Solorio Urrutia and his wife, Manuelita Solís Contreras, headed El Barzón in Chihuahua. They were killed on the morning of 22 October 2012, in the municipality of Namiquipa, Chihuahua.

The two rights defenders had already come under attack for speaking out against certain illegal activities being carried out by local groups acting in collusion with the state and federal authorities. These activities include the unlawful extraction of water, polluting methods and the destruction of crops and plots in the San Buenaventura region, Chihuahua state.

Government officials have shown a lack of willingness to address the problem or punish those who are breaking the law and impacting on the life of thousand of Chihuahuan residents. The state governor and the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional de Agua, CONAGUA) have thus far failed to intervene.

Ismael Solorio and Manuelita Solís were fighting to protect access to water in this semi-desert area and prevent large plantations from excessively relying on the region's aquifers. They had also opposed violations by the Cascabel mining company, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining conglomerate MAGSILVER. The company has carried out more than 400 exploratory drilling operations in the area without a permit and despite opposition from local authorities. It is believed that once the mine starts operating, it will be using highly polluting materials that will contaminate the land and the aquifers and have a detrimental effect on local residents' health.

Members of El Barzón condemned Governor César Duarte, CONAGUA officials and representatives of the Environment Department for ignoring the increasing tension in the region and for failing to address the environmental problems in the area, which are endangering the local production of corn and beans.

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