Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia’s Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an “Amazonian cooperation network” to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro’s failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide.
Just before the Leticia summit opened, a group of international attorneys specializing in human rights and environmental law announced that they will file a complaint against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity and the environment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. The attorneys, including the former French ambassador for human rights François Zimeray, will seek to have Bolsonaro indicted for his failure to respond to the Amazon fires in a timely manner.
It was only under mounting international pressure that Bolsonaro announced that he would mobilize the army to fight the flames late last month. Brazil is named by human rights groups as the deadliest country in the world for land defenders, with at least 57 murdered last year, 25 of them in three massacres. Some legal scholars maintain that the fires themselves constitute a form of genocide against the Amazon’s indigenous peoples. (Colombia Reports, AFP, The Rio Times, EuroNews, Gizmodo, CNN)
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