Pressure to Protect Amazonas Escalates

The Venezuelan Senate last week exhorted the President of the Republic to maintain Presidential Decrees 269 and 2552, prohibiting mining and logging in Amazonas State.

Despite opposition from Accion Democratica members of the Senate and heated debate in the chamber, an accord was signed agreeing to pressure the President to pursue an ecologically sustainable development in Amazonas State.

Senator Antillano of the Senate's Enviromental Commission stated that "The development of Amazonas State is of extreme importance to Venezuela. We must show the world that we are developing in a rational and sustainable manner, and that our often exemplary environmental legislation is more than just paper. "

The Senate's decision to sign an accord comes after the national and international outcry at moves to change the Presidential Decrees in late October, spearheaded by the Governor of Amazonas State, Bernabe Gutierrez.

The Presidential Decrees were regarded as a weak means of assuring the protection of Amazonas State. The President, Rafael Caldera, is now under greater pressure to confirm that protection bt passing further protective legislation through the Congress.

The move by the Venezuelan Senate has been seen in some quarters as a result of international pressure for the country to consider carefully the development of Amazonas State and its unequalled biodiversity and fragility.

The European Parliament was quick to condemn any opening of the State to mining or logging exploitation, in view of the damage inflicted on neighboring Bolivar State, and the European Commission financing of the huge Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve.

The Senate accord also exhorted the Financial Commission to establish a permanent fund or assignation for the Armed Forces, who are in charge of all vigilance and defence of the region and the conservation of the ecosystems of the State.

The news was greeted positively by environmenal groups in Venezuela, but the feeling is that until concrete legislation is passed in Congress, ratifying Decrees 269 and 2552, the future of Amazonas State is still in the balance.