Presidents and ministers from seven Amazon countries met in Colombia on Friday to agree on measures to protect the world’s biggest rainforest, under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation.
The summit took place in the wake of an international outcry over months of raging fires that have devastated swaths of the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia.
The gathering aimed “to foster a space for regional dialogue to advance the protection and sustainable use of this region, which is essential for the survival of the planet,” Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said.
Duque inaugurated the meeting in a “maloka” — an indigenous hut — surrounded by members of the Tikuna tribe with headdresses of colored feathers in southern Colombia’s Amazon city of Leticia.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, widely criticized over policies that favor deforestation and a delayed reaction to the wildfires, did not travel to Leticia, citing doctors’ orders.
However, speaking by videoconference, he urged other leaders to resist calls, spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, to internationalize protection of the Amazon.
“We must take a strong position of defense of sovereignty so that each country can develop the best policy for the Amazon region, and not leave it in the hands of other countries,” said Bolsonaro, who is due to undergo surgery Sunday.