It was 1 a.m. when Oscar Sampayo first saw the death threat against him. He was home alone, like he had been for most of quarantine. Signed by the paramilitary group “Aguilas Negras,” the letter, circulated around town, accused Sampayo and sixteen other environmental and social leaders in Colombia defending water and protecting the labor rights of oil and gas workers, of promoting communism, and “stopping the development of our region.” The group gave the leaders 24 hours to leave the area. “May the tears of your families for your deaths help to bring this territory to its senses,” the letter said.
Sampayo’s experience isn’t unique. Environmental leaders are enduring increasing levels of violence. According to the latest annual report from the nonprofit Global Witness, 227 land and environmental defenders from across the globe were murdered in 2020 — the highest number ever recorded. The death toll equates to, on average, more than four people murdered each week. Sampayo’s home country, Colombia, was named the deadliest nation for environmental leaders for the second year in a row, with 65 people killed.&nbs... Read more