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Natureza e Meio Ambiente / 13/05/2021

WORLD NEWS

At 11, Colombian environmental activist Francisco Vera already receives death threats

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At 11, Colombian environmental activist Francisco Vera already receives death threats


Defender of the environmental cause and children's rights, Colombian Francisco Vera, 11, already lives with death threats. On the 15th, the young man reported an attack an anonymous Twitter account.

The threat came shortly after Francisco released a video in which he asked the government to improve the internet connection for children studying online.

"Criticism is part of life, and I appreciate it as long as it is constructive and respectful".

"But there is obviously no place for insults and threats."

In a letter signed by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, the UN (United Nations) recognized the pioneering spirit of Francisco's work in Colombia - a country it is not uncommon for environmental activists to be killed.

According to the UN, 53 human rights activists and defenders were murdered in the country last year alone. In 2019, Colombia became the most dangerous country in the world for civil activism after the death of 64 defenders.

The authorities are investigating another 80 murders of community leaders. With Francisco, the attack generated outrage. "These threats are common and tend to go unpunished," said Lourdes Castro, leader of the Somos Defensores group, on behalf of the activists.

Who is Francisco

The boy claims to have started his activism at the age of six, when he participated in protests against bullfighting with his family. In his hometown, Villeta, he founded the environmental group Guardians of Life in 2019.

With six other friends, Francisco held protests to the city center, collected garbage the streets and asked for attention to climate change. Today the group unites more than 200 people in 11 provinces in

Colombia, in addition to Argentina and Mexico.

The young man is still part of the Fridays for Future movement, by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. “Children must have a say in today's issues, such as climate change and economic policy. We are not just the future, we are now, ”he said.

Francisco's mother, Ana María Manzanares, said she hoped the threat was just a "cruel joke". She has already asked for help the government. "It is a difficult situation, but I believe my son can leave it behind," she said.

Colombian President Iván Duque has promised to identify who made the threats against Francisco. Until then, the activist is dedicated to a new campaign for 2021: to ban disposable plastics in the country.


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