Judge dismisses murder charges against Mexican peasant ecologist

Mexican forest activist Felipe Arreaga was freed last week after 10 months in jail, acquitted by a judge on murder charges stemming from the 1998 death of rancher and landowner Bernardino Bautista’s son. Arreaga is a leader in the peasant-ecologist movement of Mexico’s Petatlan Sierra, which gained fame for blocking massive corporate logging in the region in the late 1990s. International critics say Arreaga’s arrest on false charges (13 other activists face warrants for the same murder) symbolizes the region’s corrupt justice system, one that favors powerful landowners — who want to restart lucrative timber sales and clear pastureland for cattle — over the peasants who rely on healthy forests and watersheds for their livelihoods. Celsa Valdovinos, Arreaga’s wife and fellow activist, believes their family is still under threat. “We want to keep working, but it’s dangerous,” she said.