Colombian activists face ‘extermination’ by criminal gangs


Enrique Fernández cannot remember the last night he slept peacefully. He is tall and heavyset, and does not look like someone who scares easily, but as he sits in his humble rented home in western Colombia, his eyes dart nervously from left to right, scanning for any threat. Any moment could be his last, he says. When a teenaged ice-cream vendor approaches the front door Fernández scurries anxiously to a back room, convinced the youth is helping set up an attempt on his life.

It is not paranoia. Fernández – a leader of the Nasa indigenous tribe and an outspoken defender of the environment – has had a price on his head for months. In February a bomb was left outside his family home. The explosive was disarmed by the army, but the message was clear: he had to move.

Last month a volley of phone calls and text messages threatened him again. “We will not rest until Colombia is free from communists like you,” the messages read. “Condolences to your family.” Since the beginning of 2016 – the year that a peace agreement was signed with Colombia’s largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc) – some 311 activists, community leaders, and human rights defenders have been murdered, according to the national human rights office.(theguardian)…[+]