Taxi driver José Alberto Toledo Villalobos was a human rights defender and campaigner for indigenous peoples’ and land rights in the area of San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca. He was a leading campaigner against large scale mining projects, which are being proposed for development in the eastern part of the Istmo region. He was also involved in the campaign against the imposition of excessive charges for electricity.
At 08.00 pm on Saturday, 8 April, he was found badly beaten and semi-conscious on the road between San José and the petrol station at Tapanatepec. He had extensive bruises and other injuries and his taxi, which was found nearby, was a complete wreck.
According to witness reports, his taxi was followed by several other vehicles, which pursued him until they finally drove him off the road. The killers then beat José Alberto, leaving him in a critical condition. He was initially taken to a local clinic, before being taken to another hospital because of the critical nature of his injuries, where he later died.
José Alberto had taken part in recent dialogues between local communities and the state authorities to reach agreement on how to de-escalate the conflict over the electricity charges. Despite an agreement with the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) that there would be no reprisals against the activists, the company continued to harass them with threats and intimidation, while electricity was cut off to the communities throughout the month of March.
José Alberto had reportedly received numerous death threats, telling him to give up his campaign for lower electricity charges or face the consequences. Just a month earlier on 8 March, indigenous community leader Benjamín Juárez José, died in hospital following a brutal beating while in police custody. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned at the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders in Oaxaca (and Mexico more generally) and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators.