(CTN News) – In one of the Amazon’s biggest cities, thousands of activists and environmentalists have gathered to express their hopes and fears.
Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and others will gather in Belém this week for a two-day conclave.
As part of his efforts to reposition Brazil as a political and environmental trailblazer after four years of Amazon devastation and international isolation under his far-right predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president has organized the conference.
As his administration celebrated a 42.5% decrease in deforestation since it took power in January, Lula said, “I believe this meeting in Belém will be remembered as a landmark in discussing climate change.”
Campaigners, Indigenous leaders and top politicians gathered in Belém on the eve of the summit to discuss ways to protect Indigenous territories, save the rainforest from a catastrophic tipping point, and fight organized crime groups, who are becoming increasingly dominant. Cop30 will also be hosted there in 2025.
Several attendees expressed relief and excitement that Lula would host this week’s events. An event like this would never have been possible under Bolsonaro’s administration – which oversaw a dramatic increase in deforestation and attacks on Indigenous lands.
According to Lula’s minister for racial equality, Anielle Franco, “we have reclaimed our democracy.” In her words, “we have emerged from an inhumane state of misrule.”.
South American activists who came to Belém echoed that sentiment.
The election of Lula has brought new hope for the Indigenous population in Brazil,
Which accounts for 60 percent of the Amazon.
“But this is a coalition government, not a left-wing one, so there are still obstacles to overcome,” Manchineri said. Many bills going through congress will affect Indigenous rights directly, and 80% of congress opposes them.”
An Ecuadorian activist has expressed optimism at the long-awaited referendum on 20 August for a ban on oil exploration in the Yasuní National Park, a biodiversity hotspot near the Peruvian border.
Indigenous people have never been consulted by the government or any company before, Peas said. Indigenous peoples and humanity as a whole know we are reaching the point of no return.”
Agribusiness, mining gangs, drug traffickers and loggers continued to wreak havoc on the Amazon’s rainforests, rivers, and native communities. Oil and gas production across South America’s largest biome has been criticized due to Brazilian proposals to drill for oil near the mouth of the Amazon River.
Activists expressed concern over “carbon pirates” who allegedly hoodwinked Indigenous communities by offering opaque offset deals.
Bushe Matis, the president of the Indigenous NGO that Dom Phillips was reporting on when he was murdered in the Javari valley last year, flew to the summit to denounce violence in the area.
Our cries for help are loud and clear. Pollution is affecting our rivers. We are being invaded by miners. The territory we live on is unprotected. We are under threat. “Indigenous people are dying all over Brazil,” said Matis, his face painted with the red dye of the urucum fruit.
In a powerful reminder of the dangers Indigenous activists face across the Amazon, a Brazilian activist reported on Saturday night that his teenage son had been shot hours earlier and was recovering in the hospital.
As Urutaw Tembé denounced his 19-year-old son’s gun attack, he vowed to never give up.
“We are tenacious and resilient warriors,” shouted Tembé, wearing a blue macaw feather headdress. In this struggle we will die because we were born into it.”