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South American Leaders Summit on Amazon Fire

On September 6, at the Columbia Summit, leaders of seven countries in the Amazon region agreed on joint measures to protect the Amazon Basin against the backdrop of widespread forest fires. How do Latin American states intend to confront a natural disaster? What decisions were made after the Colombian meeting?

Large-scale fires in the forests of the Amazon lasted about two months and caused a loud international outcry. In early September, the leaders of seven Latin American countries held a summit on the fate of the region and signed the so-called “Leticia Pact”, the final document determining the future interaction of states in protecting the Amazonian forests.

The representatives from seven of the nine South American countries sharing the Amazon region: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname met on September 6 in the Colombian city of Leticia to discuss the situation with fires in the Amazon. The leaders of Latin American states decided to hold an urgent Summit in order to specify measures to protect the largest rainforest on the planet, struck by severe fires and deforestation. Venezuela and French Guinea, the overseas department of France, who were not invited as participants, were not present at the meeting.

The summit was opened by the Colombian President Ivan Duque (Iván Duque Márquez) with the words: “We are here to work hand in hand and to support our Amazon”. According to the Colombian leader, the pact will seek to “modernize” Amazon’s current defense tools that have “not justified itself”: the Amazon Cooperation Treaty of 1978 and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).

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Answering a question on how to respond to the spread of fires devastating the Amazon region, which is considered vital for the climate balance of the planet, the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (Jair Messias Bolsonaro), absent from the meeting for health reasons, spoke out against a video conference the fact that the joint agreement could allow other countries to intervene in regional politics. According to the far-right Brazilian leader, Latin American states should take a firm stand in defense of the sovereignty of the region, and each government should develop a more effective policy for the territory of the Amazon.

It must be recalled that 60% of the Amazon rainforests are located in Brazil. The flames that devastated the territory of Brazilian forests caused an environmental and diplomatic crisis for the entire Bolsonaro government, which, since the advent of the ultra-right leader, has been advocating for mining in reserves and protected areas. In his statement, Bolsonaro drew attention to the fact that the criticism against him was caused mainly by the French president Emmanuel Macron (Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron). According to the Brazilian head of state, people like the French leader are striving to appropriate the wealth of the Amazon, so they are carrying out “propaganda” against his government. Bolsonaro believes that Macron hastened with his statement, casting doubt on the sovereignty of Brazil over the region of its part of the Amazon, but the plan to turn this large territory into a world heritage remains under consideration.

In his video presentation, Jair Bolsonaro especially noted the significant contribution of the President of Bolivia to the fight against fires in the Amazon, calling Evo Morales (Juan Evo Morales Ayma) a “true native” of his country. According to Bolsonaro, being a representative of one of the Indian peoples, Morales “from an another angle” sees the scale and threats of such climate changes, which allowed him to be one of the first to confront the current situation.

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In turn, the Bolivian President Evo Morales, in his statement, emphasized that the “Mother Earth faces death” due to climate change, impact on water sources and “excessive” consumption of natural resources. In addition, Morales expressed the position that the Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro (Nicolás Maduro Moros), who was not invited to the Summit because of “ideological differences”, was supposed to attend this meeting in Colombia. In Bolivia, according to official figures, about 1.7 million hectares of forests, including protected areas, were devastated from May to September as a result of a fire in the Amazon region.

It is worth noting that at the Columbian Summit, the state leaders also agreed to work on reforestation. The Colombian president emphasized that this meeting first of all became a platform for the mechanism of coordination of efforts of the heads of state sharing the world’s treasure – the Amazon. The seven countries, presented at the meeting in Leticia, also agreed to do more for education of the population and increasing the role of the indigenous communities in the region in their struggle to preserve the environment.

The main outcome of the Columbian Summit was the signing of a joint pact in which seven countries agreed on measures to protect the Amazon River Basin amid global concerns about massive fires that occurred in the world’s largest rainforests. Through this document, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname intend to create a joint disaster response network and satellite monitoring of forests in the Amazon region.

According to a number of environmentalists and experts, after the Summit in Colombia it is very important that all countries begin to work collectively and bear joint responsibility for the Amazon region. Today, in the face of a regional threat, all states sharing the territory of the world’s largest rainforest need a strong alliance, taking into account respect for national sovereignty, and the promotion of the exchange of opportunities, experience and technologies.

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