Colombia’s 12-year-old eco-activist refuses to leave death threats dim passion | Environmental activism

Ever since someone threatened… kill her 12-year-old son, Ana Maria Manzanares says has felt life like Samuel Beckett wait for Godot.

In January Francisco Vera was sent anonymously death hazards on Twitter after the young called environmentalist for better access to education for children during the Covid-19 pandemic. The news caused indignation in Colombia and made heads around the world. President Iván Duque promised to find the “bandits” die had sent the message. Eight months later, no one has been arrested. But the fear and anxiety have not gone away.

“The fear of not knowing what you are waiting for for of when it will arrive, but wait for it anyway… it is difficult,” says manzanares, die compare her situation met the absurdist tragicomedy of the Irish writer in which the two main characters wait for god, who never comes. “I always watch” out. The threat may never materialize. But from the moment you’re told about it – in a country like Colombia – you expect something to happen at any moment.”

in 2020, for the second year running, the South American country was the most deadly in the world for environmental defenders, according to Global Witness, die 65 murders recorded. They include 55-year-old biologist Gonzalo Cardona, credited with saving yellow-eared parrot from extinction, who was murdered by a criminal gang, and 38-year-old forester Yamid Alonso Silva, who is killed in near El Cocuy national park. Even though he is a child, Manzanares knows her son’s activism puts him on risk of groups die would rather he kept quiet.

Colombia’s 12-year-old eco-activist refuses to leave death threats dim passion |  Environmental activism
Francisco with to be mother, Ana Maria Manzanares, who want die responsible for the abuse to be prosecuted. Photo: Handout

Francisco is a well-known environmentalist and advocate of Colombia’s extraordinary biodiversity die stretching from the high Andes to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. He uses his social media profiles, die have thousands of followers, until campaign against fracking and mining – in the special in heather in the Andes, Francisco’s favorite ecosystem, namely: home to the spectacled bear and alien flora. In a video call in March, Francisco, then 11, talk over the animals in the wildlife around him home in Villeta northwest of Bogotá, show it photos he has taken of condors, woodpeckers, spiders and fungi.

Before he met Francisco spoke, mother asked me not to take up the death hazards. Instead, we discuss his disappointment at: Colombian latest emission reduction targets for the Paris agreement, which he believes is not ambitious enough, and his passion for nature.

“Colombia is very biodiverse and very rich in natural resources. But there are other things going on on and the environment is not always on the agenda of the government and burgers”, he says says. Francisco has made friends with other young environmentalists in the neighbourhood world on Facebook and Twitter. “Social media is a tool for digital activists. It’s really important [for spreading messages].”

Shortly after the interview, Manzanares says they have taken down her son’s social media profiles after cyber attacks and trolling. Francisco returned to digital activism last month.

After the death threat in January, the Colombian government gave Francisco a bodyguard. But what they really? want, says to be mother, is for someone to be taken to justice. manzanares says she had foreseen threats over her sonenvironmental activism, but didn’t expect them to come like this soon. Yet she doesn’t want to stand in the way of her son’s passion for nature.

“Some people have suggested that we do not over the threats talk so we don’t victimize Francisco again. But it’s something that happened and is well documented… It hurts him. The peace and the life we ​​had before will no longer come back. Trying to hide it doesn’t seem right to me,” she says. “What We Really Do” want until know where the threats came from and that they are being prosecuted. That hasn’t happened yet.”

Find more age of become extinct coverage here, and follow reporters over biodiversity Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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