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Amazon: Violence in Colombia putting “the lungs of the world” at risk | International


Flying by the Amazon jungle, the pilot, a former Brazilian colonel, descends from 1500 to 1 thousand meters above sea stage to strategy the majestic Puré River.

The Puré crosses the border between Colombia and Brazil, a website that has develop into strategic for unlawful mining and drug trafficking. In its channel greater than 30 mining vessels will be seen from the colonel’s airplane – tirelessly working to extract gold, illegally, from its waters.

In 2015 the National Parks of Colombia constructed a cabin known as Puerto Franco in honor of the researcher Roberto Franco, the primary to find remoted indigenous peoples in Colombia, individuals who over the last centuries have determined to not have any contact with Western civilization. From the air, solely stays of the cabin in-built honor of Franco will be seen. Illegal armed teams burned it down throughout the pandemic.

This cabin had an important goal: to guard the remoted indigenous individuals of the Colombian Amazon. Indeed, within the depths of the Amazon jungle, very near Puerto Franco, dwell the Yuri, an indigenous group that lives in voluntary isolation.

The Río Puré National Park was created for his or her safety and together with it probably the most distant cabin in Colombia. Park ranger Luis Rivas, 70, a standard professional from the Cubeo ethnic group, lived right here, charged with preserving unlawful miners, drug traffickers and guerrillas away from the remoted indigenous individuals.

Puerto Franco cabin, after being burned by illegal armed groups in Río Puré, in December 2021.
Puerto Franco cabin, after being burned by unlawful armed teams in Río Puré, in December 2021.PNN Río Puré

One evening, within the midst of the pandemic, Rivas dreamed that he was in peril and requested Parks officers to take away him from the realm. When he reached the closest city, he caught Covid-19 and died. Some time later, officers from the National Parks came upon concerning the destruction of Puerto Franco throughout a flight over the Puré River. Since the pandemic they’ve been unable to entry protected areas within the Amazon as a consequence of threats from unlawful teams that now dominate this territory.

The rangers of this nationwide park, like these of 9 others within the Colombian Amazon, which covers virtually 15 million hectares, needed to depart their territory from sooner or later to the subsequent. “We had to send a plane and get everyone out. There was no time, they threatened us,” says a former National Parks official who prefers to not give his identify for concern of reprisals from the guerrillas. This former official believes that these threats reply to the implementation by the Government of the Artemisa technique, a program to cease deforestation within the Amazon.

In 2020 Colombia was probably the most harmful nation for the second 12 months in a row for environmental defenders. According to the British NGO Global Witness, 65 environmental leaders have been murdered.

Although this disaster has been brewing for many years, it has worsened for the reason that signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian authorities and the FARC guerrillas in 2016. “The organizations that try to protect the Amazon have come into conflict with the interests of these powerful groups. and, as a consequence, they have increasingly become targets of attacks”, explains Juan Carlos Garzón, a researcher on the Ideas for Peace Foundation.

“I am threatened by the guerrillas,” says anthropologist Arturo, 45, who prefers to not give his actual identify exactly for that reason. He has walked by the Amazon area with a safety element since he reported to the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition in 2020 that the Carolina Ramírez guerrilla group arrived sooner or later on the park cabin the place he labored and instructed them that they needed to depart. “They told us that they had declared war on Parks and that they did not want uniformed whites in the protected areas,” he recollects.

An indigenous Ticuna, in the Colombian Amazon jungle.
An indigenous Ticuna, within the Colombian Amazon jungle.Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

The guerrillas stole their gasoline, cameras, computer systems and all the fabric they used to check the terrain. “They only left us a small motorized boat to get out,” says Arturo, who determined to depart as quickly as he might when he noticed his life in peril. Since that point two years in the past, each time he has tried to return, so have the threats. Indigenous officers remained answerable for the parks whereas Arturo tried to proceed main the tasks as greatest he might from a distance.

However, he not too long ago determined to depart his put up: the state of affairs, he says, was changing into increasingly irritating. Arturo was a part of a bunch of park rangers who introduced a report back to the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace by which they requested to be acknowledged as victims of the armed battle, contemplating that the guerrillas “took us out under threat and everything was abandoned. I feel very powerless,” he says.

Arturo wonders, what did National Parks do with those that are threatened for making an attempt to care for a territory that belongs to everybody?, though in fact he is aware of the reply: nothing. According to official knowledge, 12 park rangers have been killed between 1994 and 2020.

The deputy director of National Parks of Colombia, Carolina Jarro, explains that for the time being they’re underneath very sturdy stress from unlawful mining, a enterprise that they estimate represents shut to 3 billion Colombian pesos in earnings for legal teams annually. The proceeds, furthermore, are used to launder the assets obtained from drug trafficking: “Attempts have been made to control illegal mining in the Puré River because the uncontacted indigenous groups are there,” explains Jarro, citing the burning of the Puerto Franco cabin.

The deputy director additionally notes that the guerrillas don’t cease at threatening the park rangers, saying that they’ve stolen materials from the group that the rangers must do their work. “Groups outside the law prefer not to have anyone to see what happens, that’s why they kicked us out,” Jarro says

Two illegal dredgers (facilities whose purpose is the extraction of minerals found under water. In this case, gold), on the Puré River, in the Amazon.
Two unlawful dredgers (amenities whose goal is the extraction of minerals discovered underneath water. In this case, gold), on the Puré River, within the Amazon.Camilo Rozo

Although officers are at the moment unable to be contained in the parks full time, they’re utilizing distant sensing expertise to watch exercise in these protected areas. “We can see when the guerrillas build a house, when they create a road. Thus, we can file criminal complaints about the damage that is being done. We have not abandoned the place, we have to go out for protection. But we are always watching,” Jarro says firmly.

Jarro has labored as an official in a park within the Amazon area for the final 10 years. A educated sociologist, she climbed the ranks of the administration earlier than changing into head of a selected space, the identify of which she can’t reveal because of the risk from the guerrillas. Its mission has been to guard a bunch of indigenous individuals who emerged from isolation some years in the past, solely to be enslaved by the miners and rubber tappers who exploited the realm’s assets. Now, many of those indigenous individuals, from the Nukak ethnic group, are extremely immune to contact: “In the beginning, it was the indigenous people themselves who negotiated with the guerrillas so that they would let us enter and work with the communities. There was never a bigger problem.”

However, after the peace course of, all the pieces modified. “The guerrillas held me hostage for two days, and after that they told me that I couldn’t set foot in the park again,” says Juana.

The authorities’s response: Militarize

The solely resolution Colombia’s nationwide authorities has provide you with has been to militarize these protected areas by way of a program referred to as ‘Operation Artemisa’.

In 2020 President Duque mentioned in an interview with the World Economic Forum that “our strategy for fighting deforestation is a combination of carrot and stick. We’re fighting against illegal activities that destroy the tropical jungle. At the same time, we’re building up nature-based solutions. In the past two years, we have been able to reduce the rate of deforestation by 19%.” Duque has since mentioned his authorities is aiming for a 30% discount general.

This month the Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, introduced that 10,000 million pesos can be invested within the navy bases of La Pedrera and Tarapacá for the management of unlawful mining and the combat in opposition to drug trafficking.

Esperanza Leal Gómez is Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Colombia. She says that defending environmental leaders is the accountability of the entire Colombian state, which should assure situations for employees within the National Parks to allow them to “operate…without putting their lives in danger.”

Panoramic view of the Puré river, border between Colombia and Brazil.
Panoramic view of the Puré river, border between Colombia and Brazil.
Lucía Franco (EL PAÍS)

Gómez explains that the park rangers usually are not solely important for the conservation of the setting, however that they hold these at bay who need to exploit it: “The most latent threat is the dispute over territory between various illegal armed actors and civilians, who are being left unprotected.”

The director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Colombia, Sandra Valenzuela, agrees. “As long as these threats continue, the national parks, their park rangers and uncontacted indigenous people will be in danger. Colombia must find a way to guarantee security and ensure the survival of the lungs of the world.”



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