Vocal land rights activist and community radio reporter, Samir Flores Soberanes, was shot dead in his home in Mexico just days before a government referendum is to take place regarding the construction of two thermoelectric plants that he said would contaminate the drinking water in Morelos state.
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According to local media Flores was gunned down on Wednesday morning around 5:30 a.m. in his home in Temoac, Morelos where he was shot twice in the head. The victim was transferred to the Community Hospital of Jonacatepec where he later died from his wounds.
The assailants fled in two cars, according to local media.
Flores was a leader within the Front of Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala (FPDTA) which released a statement the day of the murder blaming the government for the deadly attack.
"We blame the federal government for this murder,” said FPDTA members. “This was a political crime against the human rights that Samir and the FPDTA are working toward,” read the group’s collective statement.
For years Flores, a 30-year old Indigenous Nahuatl, had been active against the PIM that includes the construction of two major thermoelectric plants, gas pipeline and an aqueduct in the state of Morelos. He and FPDTA held firm that these major infrastructural projects would contaminate the water of the Indigenous and poor living closest to the construction site.
Voters in the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala are set to vote for or against the public works Feb. 23 and 24.
The FPDTA says PIM “threatens the autonomy and self-determination of the peoples. … This murder is the result of ignoring this and the previous government’s inability to resolve (these issues) through dialogue.”
On Feb. 11 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) criticized anti-PIM protesters at a speech he was giving in Morelos as "radical leftists."
"Listen, leftist radicals for me are nothing more than conservatives," claimed the December-inaugurated Lopez Obrador as some people held placards demonstrating against the construction of the thermoelectric plants.
"Even if they scream, even if there are shouts and hatred, it will be the people who will decide on this matter," countered the protesters last week. He told the crowds that without the thermal plant the country would have to continue to rely on “foreign companies” for domestic energy.
The day before his death Samir and others anti-PIM questioned the project at a government-sponsored public forum on the energy project.
The FPDTA says the president’s words on Feb. 11 "in support of the thermoelectric plant and … aggression he made toward land and water defenders ... could generate more violence." The civil rights organization has invited the AMLO to discuss the project.
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Morelos Attorney General Uriel Carmona says his office is approaching the investigation of the killing as if it were related to "organized crime by the way in which the murder was carried out." FPDTA says Flores has received death threats since 2012 "as well as being defamed ... and criminalized… on the Internet."
"I'm very sorry about the murder," Lopez Obrador said of Flores’ death, according to the Associated Press and added: "The consultation will continue because we already agreed to the process."
This is the latest public referendum put forth by the AMLO administration since taking office less than three months ago regarding major and controversial public works throughout Mexico. Critics of the votes say the president is using his current high popularity to gain support for his projects he’s sending to referendum.