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President of the Pluri-national Republic of Bolivia Luis Arce's Magnificent Socialist Speech during the Summit of Amazon Presidents and ACTO in Belém 2023

Alvaro Enrique Saldivia Lopez

Aug 11, 2023

Thank you Comrade Lula for giving me the floor. Greetings to all the brother Presidents who are with us. I also greet, of course, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Environment who are present in this room, all the distinguished attendees, the Secretary General of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, Sister Alexander Moreira, and all distinguished attendees. I bring an affectionate greeting from the Bolivian people.

It is an honor to address all of you and express my sincere thanks. First, to comrade Lula for the initiative of convoking this timely and urgent Amazon Summit. I also take this opportunity to thank the people of Belém for their hospitality and kind welcome.

We gather here today with a deep sense of urgency and responsibility because our common home, Mother Earth, is facing a serious and unprecedented crisis. In the history of the Amazon, we have not experienced a situation quite like the one we are going through right now. The Amazon, our forests, rivers and jungles also face a structural crisis that threatens life. It has never been more necessary to raise awareness of this situation and act accordingly.

The world is going through multiple and systematic structural crises which show that the overexploitation of nature, carried out mainly by the so-called developed countries of the West, deeply affects vulnerable populations, food systems and life systems. Capitalism is putting its two sources of wealth generation, humanity and nature, at risk. Their ways of generating surpluses try to extract the greatest benefit from the labor force, without creating the conditions for its reproduction, while exploiting nature as if it were infinite. But in addition, capitalism, faced with the impossibility of reproducing itself through economic means, resorts to forms of primitive accumulation which, in the 21st century, means accumulation by dispossession.

Marx argued that capitalism came into the world dripping with mud and blood. Now in the 21st century, nearly two centuries since this statement, everything seems to indicate that this way of seizing the natural resources of the peoples is still in force. That is why it is in the interest of imperialism to militarize the Amazon directly and indirectly. Our Amazon covers approximately 7 million square kilometers, equivalent to almost 40% of the territory of South America and 6% of the planet's surface. Today, it faces an economic model based on maximizing economic growth that prioritizes short-term interests, such as the expansion of the agricultural frontier and the exploitation of natural resources, without adequately considering the long-term environmental and social consequences.

This imbalance, which affects the environment and endangers the health of ecosystems and life on the planet, has put at risk more than 390,000 species of plants and 16,000 species of trees in the Amazon. This model dragged us to the contamination of a region that is of vital importance for humanity and the preservation of the global environment. However, today we come with the firm commitment to protect the union of the Amazon, its peoples and its biodiversity! Our determination is to ensure the preservation of this unique ecosystem as well as to promote sustainable development, in harmony with Mother Earth. We believe that this is the path we must follow and we can only proceed through coordinated work and sustained cooperation.

It is estimated that the Amazon produces around 20% of the planet's oxygen, which has led it to be known as the lungs of the world. Therefore, in addition to producing oxygen, the Amazon also absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate climate change and regulating the global climate. Bolivia has been a pioneer in recognizing Mother Earth as a living being and in establishing a holistic approach to environmental protection. This approach, based on the indigenous and native worldview, highlights the interconnection between all living beings and the need to live in harmony with nature to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. This contribution of a renewed conception of life comes precisely from our original indigenous peoples, the first victims in the Amazon when the industrial world demanded the rubber from our jungles. Its exploitation meant the disappearance of more than a hundred ethnic groups and peoples along with their respective languages and cultures.

In the particular case of the Amazon region, Bolivia is home to a significant part of this invaluable ecosystem. Our country is proud of the unique biodiversity found in the Bolivian Amazon and the fundamental role it plays in regulating climate and maintaining hydrological cycles. However, the Amazon faces a series of critical challenges that threaten its existence and its role as the lungs of the world. Deforestation in the Amazon has reached alarming levels in recent decades. Ancient forests are being devastated at an accelerated rate, ancient trees are felled illegally and without planning. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the Amazon: the felling of trees for agriculture, livestock and mining, which have led to the loss of millions of hectares of forest.

Deforestation in the Amazon not only threatens biodiversity but also the global climate. The rainforest is a powerful climate regulator, making it all the more valuable by absorbing carbon dioxide in this time of climate crisis. The climate crisis is another critical challenge that threatens the existence of the Amazon. It is occurring at an alarming rate, driven primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human and industrial activity. The Amazon is facing a series of climatic challenges, such as increasingly intense and prolonged droughts, altered rainfall patterns, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires. These extreme events threaten its unique biodiversity, its indigenous peoples, and its ability to remain as an essential climate regulator.

The fact that the Amazon is such an important territory does not imply that all the responsibility for the consequences and effects of the climate crisis should lie in our hands, in our peoples and in our economies. This global climate crisis has not been generated by us. The framework of the common but differentiated responsibilities indicate the responsibility of those industrialized countries, which have greatly influenced the emission of carbon, greenhouse gases and other pollutants worldwide, and that they must cooperate to a greater extent in the management of this phenomenon. It is therefore very important to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of equity and climate justice.

The exploitation of natural resources also represents a challenge for the Amazon. This activity can cause significant environmental and social damage, such as water pollution and soil degradation. We also cannot fail to recognize that the Amazon is home to thousands of indigenous communities, whose traditional knowledge--that is, the science of indigenous peoples--has been essential for the balance of nature on our Mother Earth. The indigenous communities that have inhabited the Amazon for centuries face territorial conflicts, displacement and threats to their traditional ways of life. Recognition of and respect for the rights of these communities are essential for the preservation of the Amazon. That is why we reaffirm our commitment to the conservation of the Amazon and the sustainable use of its resources, in collaboration with local communities and indigenous peoples who have protected these territories for generations.

The Amazon is also known as a humid tropical forest and is one of the richest regions for water resources in the world. The Amazon is crossed by an intricate fluvial system, formed by several important rivers. The Amazon River, the largest and mightiest river in the world with a length of approximately 6,400 km, is a key source of fresh water in the region, not only for the region's wildlife and indigenous communities, but also for transportation. For this reason, the conservation and protection of these water sources in the Amazon are fundamental for the hydrological cycle of the earth, and their preservation is essential to ensure a sustainable future for all.

The Amazon is not exempt from illegal activities that affect the communities that inhabit it, and which have a negative impact on nature and on the legal economic activities that take place in that environment. Among the main illegal activities are illegal mining that relies on pollutants and a labor force that reproduces in inhumane conditions. The same can be said of drug trafficking, since the use of this route not only produces fear in the communities but also incorporates them by force in order to cover up their activities, which in their own way affect the balance of nature.

The Amazon is home to strategic natural resources, such as minerals and freshwater sources. Latin America and the Caribbean is a priority for the US National Security Strategy, which means that it is not only in the interest of the Department of State, but also of the Department of Defense. The installation of military bases in the region and within the Amazon is something that should draw our attention. But in this vision, it is worrying that Europe is in the same position, although in different ways. Some want to control the Amazon through military, while others use NGOs. We do not accept open or covert forms of external control over the Amazon! For this reason, I want to draw your attention to the statements made by Mrs. Laura Richardson of the United States, Southern Command. She said. "Latin America is rich in mineral resources rare earths the lithium triangle is in that region; there are many things that this region has to offer."

Although we recognize the relevance of the Amazon and its natural resources for security and sustainable development, it is essential to address this issue from a perspective that respects the sovereignty and self-determination of the countries of the region. In the case of Bolivia, it is worrisome that the geopolitical vision of some foreign powers could jeopardize the well-being, not only of local communities and the wealth of their ancestral knowledge, but also those strategic components such as freshwater sources or the biodiversity of the Amazon. We emphatically reject any attempt to dominate or exploit the region by foreign powers, as well as the implementation of geopolitical interests that put the harmony of the Amazon at risk!

We are now living through a crucial moment in the history of a world that is going through a geopolitical reconfiguration; for this reason we must promote an effective, pragmatic and robust multilateralism which allows us to face these critical challenges, because the role of cooperation is essential. Our position in the international arena is clear and we advocate for regional and international cooperation in order to face the environmental and social challenges of the Amazon region. Bolivia is willing to work together with other Amazon countries to share knowledge, best practices, and develop initiatives that promote sustainable development that respects the environment.

The Amazon countries have the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization as a space for dialogue and sustainable management of the Amazon. I would like to highlight the work carried out in recent years by the Permanent Secretariat, which expanded its work with new international cooperators, with whom ACTO had not previously worked, including the Andean Development Cooperation or the Inter-American Development Bank. In the same way, I highlight the political and strategic position that ACTO has had in various multilateral forums, such as its recognition before the United Nations general assembly as a permanent Observer, or the joint position of the Amazon Countries in negotiations during the Biodiversity Convention or the Forum of United Nations Forests.

We greatly appreciate that our countries now finally have their own ACTO structure and headquarters. We hope that the Permanent Secretariat and the ACTO instances will continue their work addressing challenges that are increasingly complex for our region. The environmental crisis certainly reflects a deeper crisis of values and culture, in which consumerism, excessive competition and lack of connection with nature have prevailed over care and respect for the environment. The overexploitation of natural resources and pollution are testaments to this disconnection with Mother Earth. For this reason, we highlight the progress we have created the declaration that we intend to adopt, within the framework of this Summit.

In Bolivia, we promote the creation of a mechanism of presidents who are able to meet periodically, with the purpose of strengthening ACTO as an institution. Thus, we highlight and appreciate that a mechanism for Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon has been established. This is a recognition of the ancestral wisdom of indigenous peoples, and their fundamental role in the conservation of biodiversity and knowledge of ecosystems.

The declaration must also promote food production systems based on traditional and family agriculture and call for actions to guarantee the human right to drinking water and sanitation. This also means an honest and responsible review of the extensive and intensive forms of agricultural and livestock exploitation which are now widening the frontier, to the detriment of the forests and life itself. We believe that these, among other advances, are necessary to move towards a sustainable development model that recognizes the value of the ecosystem services provided by the Amazon and seeks a balance between economic development, environmental conservation and respect for the human rights of local communities and indigenous peoples.

For this reason, from Bolivia, we also propose seven lines of action that we should follow:

•1: Strengthen the institutional framework of ACTO to improve regional cooperation as the sovereign management organization for the territories of the Amazon.

•2: Demand non-reimbursable and direct financing, innovative technologies with the release of patents, development of capacities that guarantee the development of the Amazon region and the people who inhabit it.

•3: Actively participate in regional integration mechanisms, such as CELAC, to enact policies with the objectives of developing the scientific research and technological innovation that would preserve our Amazon.

•4: Lead alternatives for sustainable development of the Amazon, of the forest, of life systems and the indigenous peoples. The active participation of our people generates proposals and policies based on the real needs of the people so that we provide for the needs of people who live in the Amazon, including the right to social and basic services

•5: Promote regional integration in order to collectively face the critical challenges of the Amazon that require comprehensive and coordinated actions at the national and international levels. We must move from national policies to regional policies.

•6: Deter any form of foreign militarization or interference by NGOs with priorities different from those of countries in the Amazon region.

•7: Construction of a subregional agenda that confronts illegal mining, drug trafficking and organized crime. These issues are no longer merely to be handled by police, but are instead deeply political and economic, due to their multidimensional impact on the environment and human beings.

The Amazon is invaluable, not only for the eight countries, but for humanity as a whole. It is our responsibility to protect and preserve it. Its conservation is our responsibility, and this demands that the commitment of governments, organized civil society, local communities and the international community work together to protect this invaluable natural heritage for present and future generations. It is time to act because Mother Earth cannot wait any longer. Our commitment to the conservation and protection of the Amazon today must be firm and determined! We have no doubt that in the face of these serious crises, each and every one of us will act to save Mother Earth. Taking care of Mother Earth and defending humanity are two necessary and urgent historical tasks that we must assume. Thank you very much.

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