Mauricio Avilez isn’t sleeping well. He’s jumpy. It’s hard for him to concentrate on his studies. He’s learned surreptitiously that the paramilitary groups in his country, Colombia, want him dead. So he worries about unfamiliar cars on his street and motorcycles that cruise too close to the curb or near the window of a taxi he is riding in.
Avilez, 26, is a law student and a human rights worker. He organized other lawyers to help displaced people and to document the way Colombian peasants are being forced off their land. His group, the Human Rights Education Center (called CEDERHNOS, its acronym in Spanish), is an outreach of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia. Its office is housed on the grounds of the church’s synod headquarters in the port city of Barranquilla.