14-year-old indigenous boy is latest environmental activist murdered in Colombia

The violence against indigenous communities in southwest Colombia has continued into 2022 with the murders of ethnic Nasa indigenous guards Breiner David Cucuñame López, who was just 14 years old, and Guillermo Chicame. Another activist, Luis Fabián Camayo Guetio, was injured in the attacks. They all belonged to the indigenous reservation Las Delicias in the Buenos Aires zone of Cauca.

Reports said that Guillermo was killed and Luis injured after they were among a group of indigenous guards who confronted an armed group and told it to leave the zone. Later, as community members attempted to take the injured to hospital, they were attacked again and Breiner killed.

Despite his young age, Breiner was known as a committed environmental and indigenous rights activist. Cauca’s main indigenous organisation, the CRIC, said that Breiner ‘was a carer for Mother Earth, a child protector of life and a Nasa of collective actions and grand dreams.’

The British embassy in Colombia tweeted ‘[t]he tragic news of the death of the young environmentalist, Breiner David Cucuñame López of only 14 years of age, fills us with sadness … we call for there to be a rigorous investigation.’

Colombia is by far the world’s most violent country for environmental activists, with 65 killed there in 2020 (the most recent year with available figures). The next most violent country was Mexico with 30 murders.

Despite the appalling record under his government, President Iván Duque attended November’s COP 26 in Glasgow, where he met with Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, Joe Biden and other world leaders and received highly positive media coverage over Colombia’s supposed ‘green’ credentials.

The country’s human rights crisis has continued into 2022, with six massacres committed in the first two weeks of the year, according to the INDEPAZ human rights NGO. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights received reports of 190 activists murdered in Colombia in 2021: of those cases, 47 involved indigenous victims, despite indigenous people forming only around four to five per cent of the national population.