During his first speech at the General Assembly as the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro said that the world’s addiction to money, oil and carbon is destroying the rainforest and its people under the excuse of a “hypocritical” war against drugs.
Mr. Petro described his country as one of the most beautiful and nature-rich in the world but said that blood also flowed into its rivers and biodiversity.
He explained that violence in the rainforest was fuelled by the prosecution of the sacred plant of the Incas: the coca plant.
“As in a paradoxical crossroads. The forest that should be saved is at the same time being destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they throw poisons such as glyphosate that drips into our waters, they arrest their cultivators and then imprison them,” he stated.
He added that destroying the Amazon has seemingly become the slogan of some States and negotiators and he denounced such “save the jungle speech” as hypocritical.
“The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you wage war and play with it. The jungle, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life. The great sponge that absorbs the planetary CO2 evaporates. The jungle is our saviour, but it is seen in my country as the enemy to defeat, as a weed to be extinguished,” he underscored.
Mr. Petro highlighted that while the developed world let the rainforest burn as an excuse for the war against drugs, it also asked for more oil, “to calm their other addiction” to consumption, power and money.
“What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal or oil? The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be persecuted, while it only causes minimal deaths from overdoses…but instead, coal and oil must be protected, even when it can extinguish all humanity,” he said, adding that such reasoning was “unjust and irrational”.
“The culprit of drug addiction is not the rainforest; it is the irrationality of the world’s power. Give a blow of reason to this power. Turn on the lights of the century again”, he urged.
The President said that the war against drugs has lasted over 40 years, and it has not been won.
“By hiding the truth, they will only see the rainforest and democracies die. The war on drugs has failed. The fight against the climate crisis has failed,” he noted.
Mr. Petro then demanded, speaking in the name of all of Latin-America, the end of the “irrational war against drugs”.
“Reducing drug use does not require wars, it needs us all to build a better society: a more supportive, more affectionate society, where the meaning of life saves us from addictions… Do you want fewer drugs? Think of earning less and giving more love. Think of a rational exercise of power”, he told world leaders.
Mr. Petro also addressed the climate disaster and the displacement it causes, saying that wars were only excuses to not act against it.
“The climate disaster that will kill hundreds of millions of people is not being caused by the planet, it is being caused by capital. By the logic of consuming more and more, producing more and more, and for some earning more and more”, he said.
The Colombian President added that within the fires and poisoning of the Amazon rainforest was embedded a “failure of humanity”.
“Behind cocaine and drug addiction, behind oil and coal addiction, there is the true addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, profit and money. That is the huge deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity”, he explained.
Mr. Petro urged a dialogue with Latin-America to end the war, saying it was “time for peace”.
“Only in peace we can save life in our land. There will be no peace without social, economic and environmental justice. We are at war with the planet too. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations,” he concluded.
The 77th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Tuesday with its new president urging world leaders to respond to humanity’s most pressing challenges, including the war in Ukraine, by working together and building bridges across what are “deep divides”.
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