Indigenous peoples call for world to act urgently to save the Amazon

By Paula Bayarte

Lima, Sep 2 (EFE).- More than 500 indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have issued an emergency call from Lima for the world to act urgently against the destruction of the largest rainforest on the planet and will meet in Peru for a summit in which they seek to amplify their cries.

The Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA) will gather delegates and representatives of the nine countries that make up the Amazon from Sep. 5-9 to present their threats and solutions and call for the union of peoples, states and international organizations to preserve the lungs of the planet.

“There is already twenty percent of the Amazon that is destroyed, contaminated by oil spills, illegal mining, deforestation, monocultures, livestock… We want to restore it, but we still have eighty percent alive that we have to save for humanity,” COICA General Coordinator Gregorio Diaz Mirabal tells EFE.

The coordinator is blunt in his call for urgency and is firm in indicating the responsibility of both the countries that are part of the Amazon basin – Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Bolivia, French Guiana, Colombia, Peru, Suriname and Ecuador – as well as the large governments who have promised to help preserve the rainforest and have not fulfilled their responsibilities.

He also stresses the importance of presenting solutions and emergency action plans to meet the goal of saving 80 percent of the Amazon by 2025, and to change the way the world sees it as an inexhaustible source of resources.

“We want a strengthening of our communities, an economy that respects the forest, that instead of making gold or oil, strengthens the economy of the jungle, the crafts that our communities make, tourism, native fruits, everything that the jungle produces. We don’t need to destroy it,” he says.

Díaz Mirabal, of the Kurripaco people who inhabit the Venezuelan Amazon basin, points out that there is another form of wealth outside the exploitation of natural resources and that takes care of the forest. But, for this to happen, conglomerates and banks must stop granting concessions that perpetuate deforestation.

In addition, he highlights the idea that the oxygen that the Amazon delivers to the planet and the source of drinking water that this basin represents is much more valuable than oil and gold, because they cannot be replaced.

Ancient traditional knowledge of the various peoples, which is at risk of being lost, can be used at this time to solve major problems that we have, such as major diseases,” he says.

During an interview at the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest in Lima days before the start of the summit where COICA hopes to achieve global and territorial alliances for the conservation of the Amazon, the coordinator underlines that deforestation is the largest threat they face.

Cutting down trees is the first step before illegal mining, drug trafficking, oil exploitation, cattle ranching and monoculture that destroys species.

“(Foreign investors see) the Amazon as a business and they want to cut down trees to generate profits that also do not reach our towns,” says Diaz Mirabal.

In addition, he denounces the murders of environmental defenders, which COICA says amount to one homicide every two days by criminal organizations that seek benefits in the forests.

He categorically believes that the Amazon is at a point of no return and that deforestation and the effects of climate change, as well as the war in Ukraine, are worsening the situation, since new oil deposits are being sought as well as an increase in the exploitation of existing ones, due to the lack of this global resource.

“We come from COP26 in Glasgow where many promises were made, a lot of money was promised, a lot of technical support to save the territories (…) We are going to get to the COP27 in Egypt and they have not been accomplished,” he says.

For this reason, the indigenous communities say that financing and the continuation of negotiations by countries such as the United Kingdom or France, which have committed themselves to it, is urgent.

As for the countries of the region, the coordinator hopes that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro will not win again in the upcoming election, saying that deforestation has increased in the country by up to 70 percent during his mandate. But he has hope in the new governments that have promised to listen to his demands, such as those of Colombia and Peru.

Despite being an organization that represents more than 500 diverse indigenous peoples, including the uncontacted, across a huge geographic area of 8 million square kilometers, everyone agrees that they need to raise this call to the international community.

It is an urgent cry to protect, legislate and raise awareness of continuous threats that will not stop until there is a profound change in the way society regards the care of the planet. EFE

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