Environmental activist murders doubled in Colombia last year, making it the most dangerous country in the world for those trying to protect the planet, a watchdog said Tuesday.
In its annual review, Global Witness named 177 land and environmental defenders who had been killed in 2022 -- from the Amazon to the Philippines and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Latin America again bore the brunt of the murders, including 39 killings across the vast Amazon rainforest, a vital carbon sink facing widespread destruction at a time the world is grappling to curb climate change.
The number of those killed has progressively decreased since a record 227 in 2020, however "this does not mean that the situation has significantly improved," said Global Witness.
"The worsening climate crisis and the ever-increasing demand for agricultural commodities, fuel and minerals will only intensify the pressure on the environment -– and those who risk their lives to defend it," warned the London-based watchdog.
While in 2021 most killings took place in Mexico, Colombia last year surged ahead with 60 deaths -- more than a third of all the murders globally.
"This is almost double the number of killings compared to 2021, when 33 defenders lost their lives," said the report.
Many of those targeted were Indigenous people, members of Afro-descendant communities, small-scale farmers and environmental activists.
At least five children, three of them Indigenous, were among the global tally.
"Knowing that a colleague of yours was murdered is an indescribable pain," Umana told AFP in Bogota.
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