For years, Juventina Villa Mojica worked to preserve the virgin forest surrounding her small Mexican town. Drug traffickers wanted to strip the forest to expand the area in which they could grow poppies and marijuana, but Villa Mojica and her husband led an effort to organize farmers in opposition to the gangs. Last year, her husband and two of her children were murdered. On Wednesday, she and her 10-year-old son met the same fate.

From the Washington Post:

A band of gunmen killed an environmental activist who had received death threats for standing up to drug gangs and had a police guard when she was ambushed in southern Mexico, authorities said Thursday. …

Villa and her children had ridden in an all-terrain vehicle near the top of a mountain where she could get a cellphone signal since there are no telephones in the village. They were ambushed despite the presence of 10 state police officers who were protecting them, state prosecutors said in a statement.

Five of the officers were in a patrol car ahead of Villa and her children and the other five where on foot behind them, the statement said. Villa got ahead of the officers on foot and that’s when the assailants fired their weapons, it said.

Mexican authorities prepare to destroy seized drugs.
Mexican authorities prepare to destroy seized drugs.
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The Post notes that Villa Mojica had been uncommonly lucky; more than 20 members of her and her husband’s families had been killed by drug gangs in the past year.

In October, the New Scientist reported that up to 90 percent of tropical deforestation was the result of organized crime, though generally the goal was resale of rare wood. The situation in Mexico presents the rawest form of the conflict between economics and sustainability; the amount of money to be gained by selling illegal drugs is a powerful force compared to efforts to preserve an ecosystem.