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Death Threat Against 11-Year-Old Activist Outrages Colombia

This text is republished right here with permission from The Associated Press. This content material is shared right here as a result of the subject could curiosity Snopes readers; it doesn’t, nonetheless, characterize the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors.

VILLETA, Colombia (AP) — A social media demise risk aimed toward an 11-year-old environmental activist has roused outrage in Colombia, a nation the place assaults on social leaders are frequent and threats are taken significantly.

Colombian officers stated they’re investigating the demise risk towards Francisco Vera and President Ivan Duque lately promised in a tv look that his authorities would discover “the bandits” behind the Twitter message.

For his half, the boy says he’ll proceed to steer environmental campaigns and urged different younger individuals to make use of social media to “help causes they imagine in.”

Vera, who has drawn comparisons to teenage Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, received along with six associates from faculty about two years in the past and marched to the principle park in his hometown of Villeta carrying cardboard indicators and chanting slogans about local weather change, underneath the supervision of his grandmother.

His Guardians for Life group now has a minimum of 11 chapters and greater than 200 members throughout Colombia. It planted a whole lot of timber final 12 months and petitioned Colombia’s authorities to ban single-use plastics. He spoke earlier than the nation’s congress final 12 months.

On Jan. 15, the boy obtained a grotesque, profanely worded demise risk from a Twitter account utilizing a false identify in response to a video he posted urging Duque to enhance web entry for kids learning from dwelling throughout the pandemic.

Such threats have weight in Colombia. The United Nations says that a minimum of 53 group leaders had been murdered within the South American nation final 12 months and it’s analyzing experiences of a further 80 such slayings. The nation is struggling to realize peace following many years of guerrilla battle and clashes involving drug gangs and paramilitary teams.

Twitter suspended the threatening account and the boy obtained a whole lot of messages of help, together with a letter that was hand-delivered by United Nations officers. Signed by the U.N. excessive commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, it congratulated Francisco for his work on behalf of the surroundings.

At dwelling in Villeta, a small city surrounded by mountains, Francisco stated he welcomes “constructive criticism” and is attempting to disregard the risk in addition to messages during which critics accuse him of being an instrument of leftist politicians.

He stated his group of younger activists will marketing campaign towards the introduction of oil fracking know-how in Colombia and also will sustain strain on politicians to ban single-use plastics. Final 12 months, the group collected 24,000 signatures in a web based petition for such a ban.

His mom, Ana Maria Manzanares, stated she hopes the risk is nothing greater than a merciless joke.

She stated a city official steered shutting down her son’s social media account, however she prefers to let him resolve whether or not to cease campaigning.

“I would like him to remember that he’s doing one thing that could be very useful,“ Manzanares stated. “And that it’s potential for him and hundreds of youngsters all over the world to vary issues.”

Francisco agrees.

“Adults shouldn’t be the one ones who talk about large matters” he stated. “Kids have to have a voice, too, as a result of people who find themselves making selections at present might be gone quickly and we should cope with the results.”

Whereas the sixth grader stated he enjoys watching congressional debates on tv, he’s additionally received extra typical pursuits: enjoying video video games, taking his canine Pinky for walks and swimming in a neighborhood pool. In his room, Francisco retains a field stuffed with Lego bricks, taekwondo belts of various colours and a set of Nerf weapons that he reveals off to guests with a smile.

“I’m a pacifist,” he stated as he reloaded one one of many toy weapons. “However I’m additionally a boy.”

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