Venezuela Warns Against ‘Commodification’ of Amazon Biodiversity at Rainforest Summit

The use of the region’s resources for the benefit of all without infringing on countries’ sovereignty was a common desire expressed by representatives at the summit.
Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez addresses leaders at the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization summit in Belem, Brazil. (Prensa Presidencial)

Mexico City, Mexico, August 9, 2023 ( – Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez called for countries that are home to the Amazon River basin to declare a regional emergency in order to advance the conservation of the rainforest in the face of growing exploitation of the region’s rich resources.

Rodríguez, heading the Venezuelan delegation at the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) summit in the northern Brazilian city of Belem, warned of the threat posed by transnational pharmaceutical, energy and industrial companies to the biodiversity of the world’s largest rainforest.

“The path forward is not to reduce the role of states, the path is to strengthen the capacities and functions of the state, not handing these functions over to non-governmental organizations that are ultimately instrumentalized by the large pharmaceutical, food, and energy emporiums, to seize the great biodiversity of the Amazon Basin,” said Rodríguez.

The vice-president’s comments come as a response to recent proposals to have the Amazon River basin be administered by a supranational body, a view widely rejected by the region’s leaders who view it as a threat to their sovereignty. These proposals gained traction outside of South America during the presidency of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who oversaw widespread deforestation of the Amazon during his term.

His successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has made it a priority to restore Brazil’s standing in the international community, including on environmental issues. The gathering of leaders came at the initiative of the Brazilian president and marks the first time in 14 years that the ACTO summit was held.

The two-day summit concluded Wednesday with a final joint statement, called the Belem Declaration, that calls for increased cooperation in order to protect the Amazon rainforest, widely seen as a critical buffer against climate change due to its role in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The declaration likewise asserted Indigenous rights, established a scientific body that will meet annually, and called for common negotiating positions at future climate summits. Environmentalists, nonetheless, criticized the joint declaration for failing to commit to ending deforestation by 2030.

“The Amazon is our passport to a new relationship with the world, a more symmetrical relationship in which our resources will not be exploited for the benefit of a few, but valued and placed at the service of all,” Lula told the region’s leaders at the summit.

The use of the region’s resources for the common benefit without infringing on the sovereignty of individual countries was a desire expressed by several representatives at the summit.

“While we recognize the resources we have, the sovereignty of our countries must be respected, and we reject any attempt by foreign countries to dominate them,” said Bolivian President Luis Arce.

Venezuela’s Rodríguez called for ACTO member states to defend the region’s sovereignty and for vigilance in the face of interest by NATO countries in the region’s resources, charging that the foreign powers are seeking the “commodification of the biodiversity of the Amazon basin.”

US Southern Command Chief Laura Richardson has openly expressed her country’s interest in South America’s natural resources. US policy makers have also repeatedly expressed concern over China’s growing cooperation with Latin American countries, positioning control over the region’s resources as part of a broader geopolitical conflict.

The drive to secure access and control to natural resources is seen as part of the motivations behind US sanctions against Venezuela. The Venezuelan government argues that US-led sanctions, which severely limit the country’s ability to sell its resources on the international market, constitute an economic blockade and have hampered the country’s efforts to practice environmental stewardship.

“Hopefully never again will our structures, any institution, be used to undermine legitimate governments, [and] endorse economic blockades that prevent the true defense and protection of the resources of our Amazon,” said Rodríguez.

The Venezuelan government has recently taken steps to address some of the environmental concerns of resource extraction activities in the country. Earlier this month the Nicolás Maduro government put in motion an emergency plan to clean and reduce oil spills in Maracaibo Lake, in western Zulia state.

Additionally, the Venezuelan Bolivarian National Armed Forces recently launched a large-scale operation to clear out illegal mining and other criminal activities that had become widespread in the Yapacana National Park.

Despite sanctions, oil extraction remains the most important industry in the Caribbean country. Venezuela, along with Bolivia, were the only countries that opted not to sign a previous agreement calling for an end to deforestation by 2030.

Leaders at the summit also rejected Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s proposal to end new oil development in the Amazon. At various environmental forums, Global South leaders have repeatedly insisted on further action and compensation from wealthy countries before halting new extraction projects.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.