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South American leaders pledge to intensify efforts to protect the Amazon jungle

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname signed a pact Friday, setting up a disaster response network and satellite monitoring to protect the Amazon jungle.

Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra at Friday Amazon summit.

At a summit in Colombia, they also agreed to work on reforestation. The meeting was the result, in part, of more than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest this year, mostly in Brazil and Bolivia.

“This meeting will live on as a co-ordination mechanism for the presidents that share this treasure – the Amazon,” said Colombian Presiden Iván Duque, who hosted the summit in the city of Leticia.

Meanwhile, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said: “Goodwill alone is not enough anymore.” Ecuador President Lenin Moreno agreed and said “financial and human resources” must be committed to preserve the jungle.

The seven nations also agreed to put more efforts into education and increase the role of indigenous communities.

The countries were represented in Leticia by presidents, vice-presidents and ministers. Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took part by videolink because he was preparing for surgery.

The Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming, and 60% of it is located in Brazil.

The number of fires between January and August 2019 is double that of the same period last year, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). President Bolsonaro has drawn intense domestic and international criticism for failing to protect the region.

Environmentalists say his policies have led to an increase in fires this year and that he has encouraged cattle farmers to clear vast swathes of the rainforest since his election last October.

Bolivia has also seen fires rage across the forest near its borders with Brazil and Paraguay. Meanwhile, Brazil’s leading meat export industry group and agricultural businesses have joined an environmental campaign calling for an end to deforestation in public lands in the Amazon and demanding government action.

Several international retailers have said they are suspending purchases of Brazilian leather because of the links between cattle ranching and the fires devastating parts of the Amazon rainforest.
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Credit: BBC News, www.bbc.com