The Amazon rainforest is burning – more devastating than ever. Seven neighbors wanted to save the lungs of the earth at a summit in Leticia, Colombia. The result is a pact that offers little hope among experts.
In the fight for the protection of the Amazon rainforest, heads of state from seven South American states agreed at a meeting on small concrete measures. Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname and Guyana agreed on Friday in Leticia, Colombia to exchange weather data and take other steps to make it harder for miners, loggers and farmers to illegally cut and burn. However, experts have expressed doubts about whether such multilateral cooperation can actually stop deforestation. In addition, the meeting has uncovered the deep ideological and political gap with a view to sustainable development in the Amazon.
The meeting was convened by Colombian President Iván Duque and his Peruvian colleague Martín Vizcarra, after the huge increase in fires in the Brazilian part of the area was noted internationally with great concern. Since the beginning of the year, more than 95,000 fires have been registered in Brazil – an increase of 59 percent compared to the same period of the previous year, according to government data in Brasilia. Neighboring Bolivia also has massive deals with Amazon fires.
Bolsonaro in old style
The Amazon rainforest in particular plays an important role because it binds large amounts of carbon into the Earth's atmosphere. The protection of the area, which had already come into existence with a pact from the eight Amazon countries in 1978, is increasingly being neglected. Drug trafficking and the increasing exploitation of forests, for example through illegal mining, put cooperation in the background. The ultra-right Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, accused of indifference in environmental issues, recently caused international discontent.
Via video connected to the conference, Bolsonaro again sharply attacked his critics: socialists, indigenous groups and French president Emmanuel Macron. He accused the actors of wanting to seize the wealth of the Amazon. Or they want to cut off a region of more than 34 million people from the modern world. "This international outrage has the sole purpose of attacking Brazil's sovereignty," said Bolsonaro, who could not be there due to medical travel restrictions.
"We are killing the earth"
On the other side of the political spectrum, Lenin Moreno, the Amazon-born president of Ecuador, surprises with an emotional tribute to his home country. He praised the diverse animal and plant life under which he grew up. Moreno also sang. "We are killing the earth," he explained. When he reported on his flight over the Amazon, he struggled with tears. The current was like a giant, dead anaconda. "And we are all responsible," he said.
His Bolivian colleague Evo Morales accompanied him. He saw the guilt for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in capitalism. "The profits, luxury, and consumption that few enjoy do great damage to those who populate the earth," he said. "Our planet can exist without people, but humanity cannot exist without Mother Earth."
Experts were skeptical that the action plan agreed in Leticia, with a total of 16 points, would actually pay off. "Many of these countries do not even have sufficient capacity to combat illegal activities within their own borders," said Adriana Ramos of the Brazilian research institute Instituto Socioambiental.