QUITO – Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno plans to participate in the Amazonian summit scheduled for later this week in the Colombian city of Leticia, where regional leaders plan to discuss the fires and other problems affecting the world’s largest tropical jungle, a government official told EFE on Wednesday.
The goal of Ecuador, which has about 2 percent of the Amazon basin within its territory, is to make the summit, which is being organized by Brazil and Chile, a priority for regional leaders.
The Ecuadorian Amazon covers about 40 percent of the national territory and is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
Foreign Minister Jose Valencia is expected to join Moreno in Leticia, a city on Colombia’s border with Brazil and Peru.
The fires, however, are not the main threat to the Ecuadorian Amazon, which is being affected by resource exploitation and deforestation.
Indigenous people are staging protests on Wednesday to demand that the Moreno administration protect their lands from resource exploitation.
The summit, which was proposed by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, is scheduled to take place on Friday in Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas province, giving regional leaders an opportunity to discuss measures for preventing and fighting forest fires.
Bolsonaro announced the summit last week after meeting in Brasilia with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera to discuss the fires in the Amazon.
Some 70 percent of the nearly 7 million sq. kilometers (2.7 million sq. miles) of the Amazon is within Brazil’s borders, with the rest divided up among Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, a French overseas territory.
A large number of fires have raged this year in the world’s largest tropical jungle, with most of the blazes occurring in the Brazilian and Bolivian sections of the Amazon.
On Tuesday, Bolsonaro said he would not be able to attend the summit in person and would participate via videoconference to avoid delaying the gathering.
Bolsonaro, who is scheduled to have surgery next week, said he would not be able to travel to the Colombian city.
Doctors ordered that Bolsonaro, who is preparing to have surgery on Sept. 8, go on a liquid diet starting on Friday, preventing him from traveling to Leticia, presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said Monday.
Bolsonaro is scheduled to undergo his fourth operation since being stabbed nearly a year ago.
“I will not travel to Leticia on Friday and the latest word is that we can have the meeting by videoconference,” Bolsonaro told the press as he was leaving the Palacio da Alvorada, the official presidential residence, in Brasilia, on Tuesday.
Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has moved to roll back environmental protections and to dismantle barriers to development in indigenous reserves.
The National Space Research Council (INPE), which monitors fires in Brazil using satellite imagery, said the number of blazes in the country was up 83 percent compared with this time last year.
The INPE said in a report released last month that 52.5 percent of the 71,497 fires registered between Jan. 1 and Aug. 18 were in the Amazon region.
While drought is a factor, experts say that accelerating deforestation is the main driver behind the spike in wildfires.