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Jailed farmer among winners of environmental prize

Rodolfo Montiel Flores, one of the recipients of the prestigious Goldman Prize for environmentalists, has been confined in jail in Mexico for almost a year  

April 18, 2000
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- One of six winners of a prestigious environmental prize could not attend an awards ceremony this week because he is confined to a Mexican jail. Rudolfo Montiel Flores has been imprisoned in Guerrero for nearly a year since organizing protests against destructive logging in his native Mexican state.

He and other farmers organized roadblocks and demonstrations that eventually forced one of the world's largest transnational timber corporations to withdraw from the fragile mountain region.

They contend the U.S.-based Boise Cascade lumber company excessively logged old-growth forests, leading to serious watershed quality degradation.

Authorities said Montiel and his supporters were protecting marijuana plants, not old-growth woods. Montiel said he was arrested on trumped-up drug and weapons charges in retaliation for his campaign. Under the glare of international publicity, the government has agreed to review his case.

Montiel's wife, Ubalda Cortes Salgado, accepted the award on his behalf at the Monday ceremony in San Francisco.

The Goldman Environmental Foundation annually awards $125,000 to six environmental activists from each of the inhabited continental regions. Other recipients this year of what has been called the environmental Nobel Prize:

Oral Ataniyazova. In the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, this obstetrician teaches woman and children how to cope with devastating health and ecological problems caused by the disappearing Aral Sea. One of the world's largest freshwater inland seas, the Aral has shrunk to half its size due to water diversion for cotton production, creating an ecological nightmare for the region.

Alexander Peal. The former Liberian soccer star has led wildlife preservation efforts in West Africa for decades. Peal helped create Liberia's only national park, preserving one of the last unspoiled rainforests in Africa.

Vera Mischenko. A lawyer who formed Russia's first public-interest environmental law firm, Mischenko has brought successful lawsuits against the Russian government to defend citizens' environmental and health rights. They include stopped a major oil development project on Sakhalin Island.

Nat Quansah. The botanist has treated thousands of patients at a Madagascar clinic with local medicinal plant remedies. A drug made from the rosy periwinkle plant, indigenous to Madagascar, has increased the chances of recovery from childhood leukemia from 20 to 80 percent, according to the Goldman awards Web site.

Oscar Rivas and Elias Diaz Pena. The two Paraguayan activists led protests that convinced the World Bank to cancel an ill-conceived and corruption-ridden hydroelectric power project on the Parana River.

Richard Goldman started the Goldman Environmental Prizes in 1990 with his late wife, Rhoda Haas Goldman, an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune. His foundation is based in San Francisco.

Winners are chosen from nominations submitted anonymously by 23 environmental organizations worldwide and a panel of experts representing more than 40 nations.

For selection purposes, Madagascar and other island nations like Australia are grouped into one category.

Correspondent David George and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
The Goldman Prize: The International Prize Program for Grassroots Environmentalists

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