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Cows graze in a deforested pasture on the Yari plains, in Caqueta, Colombia March 3, 2021. Picture taken March 3, 2021.

REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Deforestation surges in Colombia – and you’ll never guess why

For years, Colombian rebels and narcos perfected the art of kidnapping people for ransom – now they are holding the rainforest hostage.

New figures show that after declining for many years, deforestation in the Andean country has shot up 40% in each of the last two quarters.

The culprit? A major armed group that controls vast swathes of the jungle rescinded an earlier order to protect the vital forest resource. The “Estado Mayor Central,” as the guerilla command is known, is now using the rainforest as a bargaining chip in peace talks with the government, by allowing, or forcing, local farmers to clear trees for cattle or coca farms.

By way of background: In 2016, the government signed a peace accord that ended decades of war with the FARC, the largest of various Marxist and narcotrafficking groups active in the country. But as those rebels demobilized, other violent groups filled the vacuum.

President Gustavo Petro, the country’s first leftist president (himself a former guerrilla), pledged during his 2022 campaign to reduce chronic violence by negotiating a “Total Peace” with all armed groups. He also committed himself to a pro-environment agenda. Suddenly, those are two branches of a common problem.

An aerial view shows trees as the sun rises at the Amazon rainforest in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil.


Lula celebrates big drop in deforestation

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 66% in August compared to the same month last year – a huge achievement reflecting the ambitious climate goals of President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. What’s more, cumulative deforestation for the first eight months of 2023 was down 48%.

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Gabriella Turrisi

Hard Numbers: No Aussie tech for China, young Bosnians want out, US fossil fuel auction, EU deforestation import ban

63: Australia will prevent Chinese companies from importing or investing in a group of 63 technologies that Canberra considers critical to its national interest. The off-limits areas include 5G, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and quantum computing.

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Why CIA director Bill Burns visited Moscow; COP26 limited results
CIA Director Bill Burns Visits Moscow Amid Heightened Tensions | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Why CIA director Bill Burns visited Moscow; COP26 limited results

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What was the CIA director doing in Moscow the other day?

I think it was an attempt to bring more stability to the long-term relationship between the US and Russia. That does not hide that there are serious concern when it comes to the Russian intention versus Ukraine. And you never know, you might have a crisis there, if not any day, then at any time. But of course, stability and the long-term relationship is good anyhow.

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Leaders at COP26 pledge to end deforestation by 2030; US election day bets
World Leaders Pledge To End Deforestation by 2030 | US Election Day | World In 60s | GZERO Media

Leaders at COP26 pledge to end deforestation by 2030; US election day bets

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at world leaders' deforestation pledge, US election outlooks, and China's "zero COVID" policy.

World leaders are pledging to end deforestation by 2030. What are the updates on COP26?

Well, that is one of the wins. It's the same pledge, but more countries are on board. The Russians, the Chinese, others that weren't before, and also, we're seeing movement on methane reduction pledges. Not as significant in amount as carbon dioxide emissions, but more dangerous in terms of impact on global warming. But the big issue, of course, is that still on carbon into the atmosphere, much lower coordination than you desperately need between north and south, rich and poor, Americans and Chinese. We are very far from where we want to be on that, and there, COP26 is a disappointment.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a pistol as he attends an exhibition together with Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev before the annual expanded meeting of the Interior Ministry Board in Moscow, Russia.

Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Putin to tighten Russian gun laws, Iran-Saudi thaw, new forests vs climate change

Putin orders review of gun laws after school shooting: Details remain sketchy following a shooting at a school in the Russian city of Kazan. At least seven children and one teacher were killed, and a 19-year-old has been arrested, according to local officials. In response to the attack, President Vladimir Putin "gave an order to urgently work out a new provision concerning the types of weapons that can be in civilian hands, taking into account the weapon" used in this shooting, according to a Kremlin spokesman. There's an irony here that extends to the United States, where school shootings are all too common. In 2018, a Russian woman named Maria Butina pleaded guilty to using the National Rifle Association, the gun rights lobbying group, to "establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over American politics." At the time, Putin described Butina's 18-year sentence as an "outrage." The NRA, of course, works hard to prevent Congress and the president from taking precisely the kinds of actions that Putin swiftly ordered following the shooting in Kazan.

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