BOGOTA — With the expansion of Chiribiquete National Natural Park, Colombia’s National System of Protected Areas has gone a long way to preserve an additional 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of Amazonian jungle.
The importance of this new area is not difficult to measure. In those 27,800 square kilometers of jungle located between Guaviare and Caquetá, there are 41 species of reptiles alone. There are also 49 species of amphibians, 145 different birds, and at least 13 endangered species of mammals.
At the same time, traces of the first inhabitants of the American continent will remain intact. It is believed that there are at least four indigenous groups that coexist in the area. They belong to the linguistic families of Uitoto, Caribe and Arawak, which remain in isolation.
Chiribiquete produces much of the oxygen that South Americans breathe, and its capacity for water regulation will be crucial in adapting to climate change. A handful of protagonists worked for years to achieve this expansion. Here are a few of the protagonists:
Carlos Castaño-Uribe, Heritage Foundation scientific director, former director of National Parks and former environment minister
“Our first explorations to Chiribiquete at the beginning of the 1990s revealed the most emblematic cultural findings in the country,” he says. “The discovery of rock shelters with hyper-realistic cave paintings, which could be the most ancient on the continent, proves that this area requires special protection conditions. This is why we have been studying the need to re-categorize Chiribiquete as a National Natural Reserve rather than a National Park. The second classification is more strict, with a focus on conservation and scientific research. There are also talks with UNESCO to declare it a world cultural and natural heritage. Colombia is willing to consolidate the proposal, but lack of funding and Chiribiquete's isolation pose big obstacles.”
Julio Carrizosa, member of the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
“There are few Colombians who know of the Chiribiquete National Park since its mountain ranges did not appear on maps until a few years ago,” Carrizosa says. “The Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences pushed for its expansion, given that it is a meeting point for several ecosystems and has been a human habitat for thousands of years. The ancient geological formations found within just add to the strangeness and beauty of its landscapes.”
Another argument for the expansion, Carrizosa argues, “is the threat of increasing proximity by colonization points from San José de Guaviare. Some villages are now less than 100 kilometers from one of the most extraordinary geological formations in the park — the paleozoic ruins surrounding an oasis of rainforest. This is the so-called navel of the park, but might as well be considered the navel of the planet.”
Petroglyphs in Chiribiquete — Photo: Carlos Castaño Uribe
Patricio von Hildebrand, biologist and scientific director of the Puerto Rastrojo Foundation
“In 2002, the guerrilla presence forced us to stop our research,” von Hildebrand says. “We only went back four years ago to do the biological studies that would justify the expansion. We have described how the lakes system of the Yari river could be the second biggest and most complex in the Colombian Amazon after the Cahuinari lakes. Chiribiquete includes the entire southern basin of the Apaporis River and protects all of the Mesai river basin, as well as a large part of the Yari’s. This makes it an important source of water regulation of climatic change.”
Roberto Franco, Amazon Conservation Team consultant, expert in the studies of indigenous people in isolation
“Although it is believed to be an almost deserted area, we have evidence of the possible existence of three or more isolated indigenous groups in the heart of Chiribiquete,” Franco says. “Once proving their existence, the park expansion would mean special protection for these communities.”
Diana Castellanos, Amazon territory director of the National Parks
“The most difficult part of this journey was the lack of resources to investigate further and the difficult access to certain parts,” Castellanos says. “For example, we had to overfly the Bajo Caguan in the occidental part of the park. What you see from above is a stunning forest savanna in a perfect state of conservation. The decision to expand Chiribiquete has huge national and international importance. Chiribiquete has been a center of Amazonian cultures for millennia, not just from Colombia, but also from Brazil and Peru. Moreover, it is a corridor connecting the Andes to the Amazon.”
Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.
[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.
• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.
• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.
• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.
• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.
• Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.
• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."
— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
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