The Michoacán Attorney General’s Office is investigating 53 police officers in connection with the disappearance of monarch butterfly activist Homero Gómez González on January 13.
The investigations began on Monday with the interrogations of 29 officers from the municipality of Ocampo and 23 from neighboring Angangueo.
The officers were transported to the attorney general’s offices in Morelia by soldiers and state investigative police.
Security operations in the two municipalities were assumed by over 100 state police officers while the investigations are underway.
Attorney General Adrían López and Governor Silvano Aureoles both confirmed that the investigations have yet to produce information into Gómez’s whereabouts or the details of his disappearance.
Gómez is the head administrator at the El Rosario monarch butterfly sanctuary in Angangueo. He was last seen around 7:00pm on January 13 in Ocampo.
An official with Michoacán’s human rights commission, Mayte Cardona, said that although the circumstances of his disappearance are still unknown, it is likely that it was related to his conservation work.
“He was probably hurting the [business] interests of people illegally logging in the area,” she told Reuters.
Those who have worked with Gómez said that his efforts have been invaluable to the monarch butterfly species, which migrate thousands of kilometers each year to Mexico through the United States and Canada.
Donna Kelleher, a butterfly conservationist from Granbury, Texas, who has worked with Gómez told Mexico News Daily that “Homero Gómez González is a titan of conservation for the monarch butterfly.”
“Without oyamel trees, the species will not survive. His efforts have included planting one million oyamel trees, all with volunteers, at [the El Rosario Sanctuary],” she said.
For Gómez, butterfly conservation is part of local and family traditions.
“Our grandparents told us, ‘Take care of them. They’re angels,’” he told The Washington Post for an article published earlier this month.
Gómez posted several tweets on the day of his disappearance. One post is a photo of several El Rosario tour guides in front of the sanctuary entrance. Others are videos of hundreds of butterflies fluttering through the forest.
The organizations Amnesty International and Global Witness reported in October of last year that Mexico is growing increasingly more dangerous for environmental activists.
Global Witness had documented 12 murders of environmentalists in 2019 by that time, and reported that there were 14 in 2018 and 15 in 2017, up from three the year before.
Howler monkey conservationist José Luis Álvarez Flores was murdered in Palenque, Chiapas, last June. A biologist working on a scarlet macaw breeding project, Nora López, was found stabbed to death in Palenque in August.