In 2018, 164 defenders of the land and environment were killed, with the Philippines of the brutal President Rodrigo Duterte taking over from Brazil as the deadliest place to resist rapacious developers and governments. That was less than the 201 killed in the previous year, but it was hardly an improvement.
Global Witness noted that the actual figure is probably far higher because reporting is iffy in the most vulnerable parts of the world. Governments and industries are also learning that there are other, nonlethal means of intimidating or eliminating activists who resist them. In addition to the violence of private security agents, state forces or contract killers, activists now also confront teams of aggressive lawyers.
Using, or misusing, laws and the courts, governments and industries, intent on driving indigenous people or activists away, criminalize resistance or proclaim them to be “terrorists,” choking off their funding and tying them up in costly legal battles. The United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, was among 600 people the government of her home country, the Philippines, labeled terrorists.
Human Rights Watch called the action “a virtual government hit list” and noted that state security forces and pro-government militias in the Philippines had a long history of murdering people labeled terrorists or Communists.
When you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last.