MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – Authorities in western Mexico said Wednesday they have launched a search for two community activists who went missing after their bullet-riddled vehicle was found on a rural highway.
Both actively fought against a large iron mine in the city of Aquila. Residents had long complained about the exploitation of this open air as it was polluted and its control a source of violence. In addition, it provided certain benefits to the residents.
The city of Aquila is located in the western state of Michoacán, in an area that has long been in dispute between various organized crime groups.
The workers disappeared Sunday night on the border between Michoacán and the neighboring state of Colima, both on the Pacific coast.
Michoacán Governor Alfredo Ramirez said on Wednesday that authorities in both states had launched a search operation for lawyer Ricardo Lagunes and schoolteacher Antonio Díaz.
“We want to find these two men alive,” Ramirez said, after assuring that prosecutors from two neighboring states were working on it.
The United Nations Human Rights Office called on the authorities to do more to protect the workers.
“The disappearance of these two defenders is a terrible and dangerous fact,” said Guillermo Fernandez-Maldonado, the representative in Mexico of the UN rights office. “It is important to note that at least one protester had state security measures in place, which failed to prevent his disappearance”.
It was not clear which of the two had received such protection.
Díaz was a leader of Aquila’s largely indigenous community, while Lagunes was involved in protecting communities from various states in long-standing land and development disputes.
Aquila Mine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the past, the area’s rich iron deposits have attracted the interest of rival drug cartels, who have extorted money from the community or become directly involved in the mineral trade.