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Today in Terrorism

Today in Terrorism: 10 November 2011 Ernesto Menendez Salinas assassination

Was an ‘ecoterrorist’ attack in Mexico eight years ago a harbinger of things to come?

Was an ‘ecoterrorist’ attack in Mexico eight years ago a harbinger of things to come?


We have had Islamist terrorism on the brain for a very long time. And for good reason. 9/11 alone, by far the single largest attack in history, and perhaps one that will never be surpassed, justifies our attention. Following that horrific day, Islamist terrorists and terrorist groups have continued to kill and maim hundreds of thousands in dozens of countries. As of late 2019 this brand of violent extremism still represents the #1 threat as far as terrorism goes.

And yet we are being hammered these days by those who are critical of this emphasis. What about the far right? What about the incels? What about the fascists? ‘Experts’ go on the news to lament that our security agencies have been too long focused on ‘yesterday’s demons’ and are missing today’s. I think I have been able over the years to demonstrate that is not true, so I will not belabour that point here.

‘Experts’ go on the news to lament that our security agencies have been too long focused on ‘yesterday’s demons’ and are missing today’s.

At the same time another threat that is getting a little more attention is what is loosely called ‘leftist’ terrorism. There is no question that decades ago there were indeed terrorist groups one could put in that box: Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Japanese Red Army, the bizarre American Symbionese Liberation Army, etc. None amounted to much and all fizzled out.

With the growing concern over issues such as climate change have grown concerns over ‘ecoterrorism’, groups and individuals willing to use violence to make their point and get others to listen to them, thereby leading to the necessary changes to prevent global ecological doom. And it is not only the environment that is inspiring such activists.

Ernesto Menendez Salinas assassination (Photo: Guerrilla News)

Ernesto Menendez Salinas assassination

On this day in 2011 Ernesto Menendez Salinas was killed by a gunman as he entered his car following a late dinner. Professor Menendez Salinas was a biotechnology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM): another UNAM professor in the same department, Yadira Davila Martinez, was killed the previous August.

Crimes of this nature are all too common in Mexico and Professor Menendez Salinas’ death was first dismissed as another robbery gone wrong. Except that this act was claimed by a band calling themselves ‘Individualistas Tendiendo a lo Salvaje’ (ITS), which translates somewhat awkwardly from Spanish as ‘Individualists Protecting the Wilderness/Pristine’ (other Mexican reports later said that an arrest had been made in the investigation that had nothing to do with ITS, pointing to the difficulty in drawing solid lines between claims and actual incidents).

‘Ecoterrorism’

ITS has been around since 2016 and says it is ‘ecoextremist’, believing that scientific and technological progress is responsible for the devastation of ecosystems. It wants a return to a more ‘natural’ world (think the French writer Rousseau’s idea of the ‘noble savage’). The group has claimed several small bomb attacks across Mexico and further abroad in Brazil and Chile. It has also linked up with those who want to undo the effects of the ‘conquistadors’ who ravaged Latin America beginning in the 1500s and decimated indigenous populations.

In a FaceBook interview, an ITS spokesperson justified the tactic of assassination because the group is ‘at war’ and does not recognise anything linked to the culture and religions of those who took over and killed native populations. As for why universities and professors in particular are targeted, ITS sees these as institutions which produce ‘slaves’ who merely continue the status quo and promote ‘human progress’. Hmm, this reminds me a lot of Ted Kaczynski, the ‘Unabomber’, who terrorised the US for almost two decades as he tried single-handedly to reverse technology.

It has also linked up with those who want to undo the effects of the ‘conquistadors’ who ravaged Latin America beginning in the 1500s

Whether or not we will see more terrorism tied to this overall ideology remains to be seen. As I continue this series for an entire year (!) I will most assuredly feature Islamist terrorism since this has been and still is public enemy #1 when it comes to violent extremism – although this is a historical series I do try to make it relevant to our times. To do otherwise would be intellectually dishonest. Nevertheless, there will be articles on other forms of terrorism, like today’s.

The bottom line: there is no lack of inspiration for those who like to kill and say it is ok.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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