The President of Colombia spoke on Monday, April 17, at the opening session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues ‘Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health, and climate change: a rights-based approach.’ Presidency (Cristian Garavito)
“Several decades ago I met and listened to a Colombian indigenous leader of the U’wa people, Roberto Cobaría, who said, fighting against oil exploitation in the indigenous territory between Boyacá and Arauca, that if oil was taken from the land it was like taking the blood to that mother Earth and that this would only have one consequence: death, the extinction of life on the planet”.
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This is how President Gustavo Petro began his speech at the opening session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. That speech was focused not only on the protection of the sacred and ancestral lands of the original peoples of both Colombia and the rest of the world; but in that sense he also called on the great powers to change the economic paradigm that, according to his presentation, have left serious environmental and social problems for those communities.
He referred to the climate crisis, the way in which this issue has dominated the discussion on the crisis of humanity and the scientific findings that determined the environmental risk involved in both the extraction and use of oil. On this, the head of state said that “Cobaría was absolutely right.”
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Petro explained that in Colombia there are 115 indigenous communities, which makes the country multicultural by speaking various languages, not just Spanish. Many of these peoples live in rural areas and the jungles, and under this scenario he explained that these groups “can take better care of the land than any other culture” and announced that during his government an emphasis will be placed on expanding the reserve areas for the protection of natural resources.
“If the Amazon forest disappears, not only does the water in Colombia that more than 50 million people drink disappear; rather, a good part of human existence disappears”, declared the President of the Republic.
President Petro also stated that it would not even be enough to reforest the entire continent, but that a fundamental solution is based on putting aside the extraction of oil, coal and gas from the earth. He also suggested that the conflicts in various regions of the world make the search for solutions to dispel the climate crisis take a back seat.
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“The war has given the option to escape from the solutions that the climate crisis implies,” said the president, and in that way, he insisted on pressing to find solutions to world peace. He also launched a critique of the accumulation of capital and ruled that stopping consuming shit, oil and gas would mean removing the basis for hoarding fortunes in the world, generating inequality.
“From this room we are begging big capital (without saying it because the politically correct discourse prevents us) to stop accumulating, to become an ally of life, which is practically impossible,” added President Petro. He reiterated that the accumulation of mercantile capital has generated the possibility of the very extinction of all humanity.
“The transition is no longer waiting: the market is not doing it; big capital is so unaware of the options that life has on the planet, that it is resorting to wars, to cover the needs for a change in the system that is imperative if we want to live on this planet”.
At the end of his speech, President Petro once again mentioned that Roberto Cobaría was right when he said that if oil is extracted from the earth, “life on the planet withers”, which is why he insisted in his speech that launch an energy transition between countries.