The Pope Receives President Iván Duque In October 2019 © Vatican Media

Colombian President Ivan Duque Presents Measures Adopted to Protect the Amazon

In a Letter to the Pope and the Synodal Fathers, to Which Zenit had Exclusive Access

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Ivan Duque Marquez, President of the Republic of Colombia, addressed Pope Francis and the Synodal Fathers to share the recent actions taken in the country to preserve the Amazon.

In a letter dated October 4, 2019, to which Zenit had exclusive access, the Colombian President explained: “Although it’s not usual for a Head of State to address an Episcopal Synod, I believe that the nobility and importance of the subject for the whole of humanity, as well as the global dimension of its convocation, make a word of ours pertinent and necessary, which can be considered by such an important ecclesial assembly, given that Colombia is the second country in the world with the largest extension in the Pan-Amazonian region.”

Pacts for Amazonia

 President Duque said that last September 6, the Presidents of the Amazon countries signed the Pact of Leticia for the Amazon and, for their part, the Colombian governors endorsed the Amazon Pact for Climate and Forests to manage climate change. In the case of the latter, ”we have documented a 10% decrease in deforestation in Colombia in regard to the year 2017, not only in Amazonia, but also in the Andean, Caribbean and Pacific regions, which for the Amazon alone represents a decrease of the deforestation of 5,971 hectares in 2018 as opposed to the year 2017,” he pointed out.

The Colombian President also asked for further reflection on all these areas, and that the Synodal Assembly be taken into account ”given that it is very important for the commitment of all peoples in this portion of the planet.”

Pope Francis’ Message

 Recalling that Pope Francis encouraged rulers to implement public policies “that will signify real commitment in face of deforestation, contamination of the atmosphere, illegal extraction of minerals, as well as the conservation of rivers and seas, to put an end to the deterioration of our natural riches,” Duque pointed out that in Colombia’s case, the nation maintains 52% of its territory in forests: and the Amazon biome has “a population of 1,228,394 inhabitants, 146,7737 of whom are our Indians who have distributed themselves in a territory of just over 39 million hectares (. . .).”

He also mentioned that the Colombian people, both believers as well as non-believers, received positively the Holy Father’s invitation “to promote integral human development with language that is responsible and fraternal with nature. We are ‘listening to the voice of Amazonia, to that of its people, to our Indians and, especially, the voice of the most vulnerable and needy, who live in that region of our common home (. . . ).”

The Voice of the Marginalized 

 President Duque reiterated his commitment to implement policies that conserve and protect and Pan-Amazonian region, taking into account “those that also suffer in conditions of marginalization and for whom we are working, so that their voice is taken into account in an inclusive and effective way,” something that he already manifested, last August 12, before the Colombian Bishops who would be going to the Synod and the indigenous leaders present at the meeting.

Among the concrete actions, he highlighted “the creation of Centers for the Prevention of Socio-Environmental Conflicts, based on ancestral and scientific knowledge of those territories.” Moreover, from the slogan ‘Produce Conserving and Conserve Producing’ and the Pact for the Region of Amazonia: “Sustainable Development for Living Amazonia (Development Plan 2018-2022), we have declared the protection of the natural patrimony as a matter of national security, while we work to benefit more than 12,000 families there, working in agro-environmental activities that connect them with processes of agro-diversity and including bio-commerce in Amazonia, which improves its living conditions.”

More Pact and Programs

 On the other hand, through the Pact for the Equity of Opportunities for Ethnic Groups, part of the National Budget has been invested to implement 216 proposals “related to social justice, ancestral territories, Indians, health, education, woman and the family and harmony in the defense of life.”

Together with other countries, Colombia has implemented programs to protect the Amazon forest, as is the case of “Amazonia Vision,” developed with the support of some European governments.

The President also mentioned the Launching of a National Strategy of Circular Economy, the first in Latin America, which hopes to “transform traditional production processes and consumer habits, focused on avoiding the contamination of the Amazon River and the Amazon cities” and “an important process of expansion is advanced of unconventional renewable energies.”

 As a last initiative, he mentioned that they are “close to launching” a program of “Biodiversecities,” in municipalities such as Leticia, Florencia and San Jose del Guaviare, among others.

Unite the Human Family

 Finally, the Colombian President said that the Catholic Church along with the other Churches, counts on the Colombian government as an ally in the care and conservation of the Amazon, uniting itself to the Holy Father’s desire “to unite the human family in the search for sustainable and integral development, as we know that things can change (Laudato Si’, 13).”

He concluded wishing “the best fruits” for the Synod on the Amazon and  asking and offering “that we unite in this noble common home, for the good not only of Amazonia but of the whole world, which today more than ever needs attentive care in the green and blue portion of the Earth, of which Colombia is responding for a very important part.”

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