This is 12-year-old Francisco Vera. At the beginning of the year, the young env…
This is 12-year-old Francisco Vera.
At the beginning of the year, the young environmentalist was sent anonymous death threats on Twitter after calling for better access to education for children during the coronavirus pandemic.
The news caused outrage in Colombia and made headlines around the world. But nine months later, nobody has been arrested – and the fear and anxiety caused have not gone away.
Even though Francisco is a child, his mother Ana Maria Manzanares knows her son’s activism puts him at risk from groups that would rather he remained quiet; “I am always watching out. The threat might never materialise. But from the moment you’re told about it, in a country like Colombia, you expect anything could 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, which recorded 65 killings.
Manzanares says she had anticipated threats over her son’s campaigning but had not expected them to come so soon. Even so, she does not want to stand in the way of her son’s passion for nature.
Francisco is a well-known environmentalist and defender of his country’s extraordinary biodiversity that stretches from the high Andes to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. He uses his social media profiles, which have thousands of followers, to campaign against fracking and mining.
After the death threats in January, the Colombian government gave Francisco a bodyguard. But his mother says what they really want is for someone to be brought to justice.