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  • A howler monkey rests in the treetops at a jungle in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, Oct. 13, 2009.

    A howler monkey rests in the treetops at a jungle in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, Oct. 13, 2009. | Photo: EFE

Published 11 June 2019

Jose Luis Alvarez' murderers left threatening notes for his family and other environmental activists next to the body.

Jose Luis Alvarez, an internationally-known defender of the howler monkeys, was shot to death near Calatraba in the state of Chiapas Monday by anonymous assassins.

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"We denounce this cowardly murder and demand justice to protect (Jose Luis's) family and two other defenders who were threatened," said Miguel Perez, President of Tabasco State's Environmental Management Unit. Perez confirmed that anonymous notes threatening Alvarez' relatives and other area ecologists were left beside the cadaver.

In 2012, Alvarez established a 345-hectare protected area in Chable, in the State of Tabasco. The ecological shelter is home to about a hundred howler monkeys, also called Saraguato, along with iguanas, herons and other species particular to this part of Mexico, and the region.

"He had recently denounced the illegal extraction of sand and stony material at the Usumacinta River," near the sanctuary, Perez said and confirmed that the activist had requested protection from the authorities but he never received it.

"This is abominable. He was a nice person. His defect was defending [against] the illegal sand extraction. That was his fight," Perez lamented.

"They assassinated environmentalist Jose Luis Alvarez Flores on the edge of a road at the Tabasco-Chiapas border. Recently he denounced the illegal extraction of sand and stones from the Usumacinta River."

The Saraguato Sanctuary, located at the Usumacinta River's banks, is focused on the conservation of primates native to Belize, Guatemala and Mexico.

"Howler monkeys have become one of the most common species found in animal trafficking (rings). Adults are captured to be used as food and the young are used as pets," local media Principia reported and added that the capture of young monkeys usually leads to the death of the mother and the rest of the family group.

While this is the first assassination of an environmental leader registered in Tabasco, at least 125 Mexican environmentalists have been killed during the last decade, according to figures from Global Witness (GW).

"Mexico continues to be a deadly country for environmental defenders," Mongabay Latam said in a statement and explained that most of the defenders, who were threatened then killed, were fighting against major logging and mining projects in their regions.

"The main cause of conflicts is that neither companies nor the government are guaranteeing to local communities their right to give or retain their free, prior and informed consent on the use of their lands and natural resources", Ben Leather, the GW land defenders campaigner, said.

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