Environmental activists experience deadliest year in Colombia

Latin America

2016 was a deadly year for environmentalists in Colombia. That’s according to a report by the advocacy group, Global Witness. But why are these activists paying such a high price?

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Global Witness reported that in 2016, 200 people across 24 countries were killed for standing up for environmental rights. This made it the most dangerous year in recorded history. Nearly 40 percent of those killed were indigenous people.

The top five countries that are dangerous for activists led with Brazil and Colombia, followed with the second highest number of documented environmentalist murders.

Colombia’s Former Vice Minister  of the Environment, Carlos Hildebrando Fonseca, said this is a fight over land use. Criminal groups who work in illegal mining and logging can threaten activists who are trying to defend land rights. Even worse, corrupt government institutions are not protecting the rights of the planet and its inhabitants.

“What we have seen recently is that even our justice system is very corrupted and what we call our land use planning is even more corrupted. The Mayor’s of several municipalities for example when they are in power they will receive money in order to change the use of the land,” Fonseca said.

The Global Witness report called Defenders of the Earth lists a range of tactics used to intimidate land and environmental defenders. Death threats, arrests, sexual assault are just some of the methods used against activists who are protecting their land against the mining, logging and agricultural industries.

The report also states the highest number of activists killed were in the mining and oil exploration sectors.