Press release

Guatemala: Urgent Need to Investigate Murder of Environmentalist

Freedom House calls for an unbiased investigation into the murder of Guatemalan environmentalist, Walter Méndez Barrios.


In response to the murder on March 16 of Guatemalan environmentalist and community leader Walter Méndez Barrios, Freedom House issued the following statement: 
“Authorities in Guatemala should promptly conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation into the murder of Walter Méndez Barrios and bring those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Ponce, director for the Latin America programs. “Given the tensions in the region over communal rights to natural resources, it is imperative that authorities make a stronger commitment to providing security to local leaders and activists.” 

On March 16, 2016, Walter Méndez Barrios was shot to death in La Cruces, Petén; authorities have not yet announced any arrests for the murder. He was president of the Cooperativa La Lucha and board member of the Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén (ACOFOP). Méndez Barrios was known for promoting sustainable development and the protection of natural resources in communities of the Reserva de la Biósfera Maya.

Guatemala is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2015.