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Environmental Defenders

Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world to be an environmental defender. But this doesn’t stop activists, territorial guards, Indigenous communities, and environmental associations from doing their job.

Policymakers have taken some steps to address the violence. The Escazú Agreement was adopted to facilitate access to information and increase justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2022, the first ever UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders took office with a mandate to enforce the protection of environmental activists by their national governments, and the E.U. is voting on due diligence supply chain regulations that would require companies to avoid human rights and environmental violations.

This article series documents some of the work of environmental defenders in different Latin American and Caribbean countries, highlighting both the dangers they face and their achievements in defending their habitats and communities.

We aim to inform, motivate, and connect an English-speaking public with the inspirational stories of grassroots defenders’ work in Latin America and give defenders from countries where their battles are under-reported a greater voice.

We are working in partnership with trusted Latin American independent outlets. Find a full list, as well as further details of the series, here.

Help us bring these stories to a wide audience by sharing them widely on social media.

Have you got a story for us?
We’re looking for stories which document the work and amplify the voices of grassroots EDs in Latin America. We’d like to show a geographical diversity in our reporting. Tone: inspirational, motivational, accessible. See our full pitching guide here.


Millaray Huichalaf: Mapuche woman’s 15-year defence of a sacred river

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For 15 years, spiritual Mapuche leader Millaray Huichalaf, representing more than 150 Indigenous communities, has defended their sacred Pilmaiken River against Norwegian state-owned company Statkfraft’s hydroelectric ambitions.

KANUA: the first floating film festival to navigate the Ecuadorian Amazon

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Kanua, the Amazonian Floating Film Festival, brought cinema to remote communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon on a solar-powered canoe.

Appeal for leading Brazilian environmental defender

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Antonia Melo, a Brazilian environmental defender widely known for her work, especially in opposing the Belo Monte hydro-electric dam on the Xingu River, faces a grave health crisis. An appeal has been launched to help with her health care.

‘Our environment and its defenders need the Escazú Agreement’

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Ricardo Andrés Pineda Guzmán, of the Honduran Network for Escazú, reminds us why it’s crucial for Honduras to sign, ratify, and enforce the Escazú Agreement for environmental justice.

Yuturi Warmi, Ecuador’s first Indigenous guard led by Kichwa women

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In 2020, over 40 Kichwa women began to organise themselves in defence of their territory and to expel mining from the Ecuadorian Amazon. This is how Yuturi Warmi, the first Indigenous guard led by women in the region began.

FILM: The Future is in our Territories

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In a new LAB film, environmental defenders discuss their territorial work and the Americas-wide alliance for racial and climate justice

Paraguay: the Paĩ Tavyterã and the changing climate

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Paĩ Tavyterã Indigenous communities are employing ancestral knowledge and advocacy against the impacts of climate change

Bust of Berta Cáceres shows ‘lack of respect’

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A bust of Berta Cáceres was installed in a square in Tegucigalpa's civic centre, next to a bank owned by the Atala family, who have been accused as one of the masterminds behind her murder. This piece was originally published in Spanish by Contracorriente.

Mexico: guardians of the cenotes

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The Kanan Ts'ono'ot collective is making history in Mexico by demanding that cenotes be granted legal status and the Maya people named as their guardians against threats posed by industrial farming.

Belo Sun Mining seeks to criminalise Amazon defenders

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The Canadian gold mining company’s criminal lawsuit attempts to silence and intimidate defenders of the Volta Grande do Xingú, including community leaders, Amazon Watch, and other environmental and human rights activists.

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