SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 13, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Center for Sustainability of the Sierra Nevada Incalli Ixcahuicopa

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 13, 2023, a group of unidentified individuals attacked Álvaro Arvizu Aguiñiga, an environmentalist activist and researcher at the Sierra Nevada Research Center housed at the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), and two others. He died at the hospital on June 19, 2023.

The attack took place at the headquarters of the environmental collective Center for Sustainability Incalli (CENTLI) in Tlalmanalco de Velázquez, Mexico. The perpetrators reportedly beat and tied up his wife, Rebeca López Reyes, as well as Carlos Vargas Cabrera – the two directors of CENTLI, along with Aguiñiga. They then attacked Aguiñiga. Reyes and Cabrera survived the attack. This is the second death of an environmentalist in the Popocatépetl Iztaccíhuatl volcanic region in the past two days (see report).

The attack is apparently connected to Aguiñiga’s work defending water in the Popocatépetl volcanic area, which helped expose illegal water trafficking. CENTLI, which Aguiñiga co-founded, has fought for many years to preserve the region’s water systems and has been promoting the enactment of the new General Water Law for more than a decade. In addition to his work with CENTLI, Aguiñiga also taught many sustainability courses, focused on topics such as composting, greenhouses, and agriculture.

The attack occurred just hours after an attack on another environmentalist, Cuauhtémoc Márquez (see report), who worked in the same area. The two attacks may have been connected, according to a statement made by the Zeferino Ladrillero Human Rights Center.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about the targeted killing of a researcher and sends condolences to Mr. Aguiñiga’s family, colleagues, and community. Authorities should take reasonable steps to prevent and respond to such attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators responsible, in accordance with international human rights standards. In addition to the harm to the victims, lethal violence of a university researcher undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)