SEMANA, November 20, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Chief Executive insisted that 15 million hectares being used for cattle ranching ought to be used for agriculture instead. In the same manner, he told the cattle ranching sector that it was responsible for being one of the principal causes of greenhouse gases, even more than factories and vehicles.

President Gustavo Petro made a tough speech, criticizing the cattle ranching sector right in the meeting of its XXXIX Congress, which took place last Thursday, November 17 in Barranquilla. The President stated that cattle ranching was one of the activities that had the most influence on climate change, and that, therefore, in the case of this country, measures would have to be taken to reduce it. “This activity is bringing us closer to the extinction of our species,” he said.

Petro said that the winter wave we are seeing in the country has to do with the greenhouse gases that cattle ranching brings, even, he said, more than other activities like factories or vehicles. And he admitted that for many years many people were mistaken in thinking otherwise.

“This change that we are suffering from this winter wave, which is one of the consequences, is not a natural disaster. It’s the consequence of an economic system that is refusing (. . .) to pay for the damages and the harms brought by this while anchored on the highest standard of living we have ever attained. It produces a chemical transformation of the atmosphere, it changes the water cycles on a planetary scale, and provokes the worse and worse catastrophes that we are seeing, and the ones we can’t see, which are more and more deadly, like the virus,” said Petro.

And he declared, “The principal economic sector that produces this situation in developed countries is not the quantity of factories that need that energy to power their industries, but rather, it’s cattle ranching and just one kind of agriculture, a path that we can no longer imitate; nor should we.”

He also said that in the case of extensive cattle ranching, there are 15 million hectares in this country that ought to be used for planting food crops such as corn and other agricultural products, so that they can also generate more employment in the sector.

“If that could be accomplished in the Colombian Caribbean, there would not be poverty. There would be no hunger in Barranquilla,” Petro said to Mayor Jaime Pumarejo. According to the Chief Executive, that may be the worst problem in the capital of Atlántico Department, and he said that this problem, added to the climate phenomena that we are seeing,  increases the city’s problems, just like in other regions of the country.

“This is aggravated because these conditions are generating price speculation,” Petro pointed out, and stated that, for example, this could worsen hunger, which for Petro, is the most urgent problem to be solved.

He insisted that these 15 million hectares being used for cattle ranching ought to be used for agriculture. He has indicated his desire to purchase these properties from the ranching sector, because he believes that they are fundamental for what he is trying to accomplish in combating hunger and even for achieving “total peace”. For Petro, land in this country has a social function as well as an environmental function.

The President said that in some special areas like the Amazonas Department, there shouldn’t be any cattle ranching. “If we have 15 million hectares of fertile land, favorable for growing food crops, then it’s our duty to humanity to use such land for food crops. If we consider another geographic aspect of Colombia, which is that half our territory is forest and jungle, beginning with the Amazon jungle, so neither the jungles nor the forests can be used for cattle ranching,” he declared.

He clarified that the idea is to free up those 15 million hectares for agriculture and concentrate cattle ranching “in a different way”, with the objective of diminishing the greenhouse gases. Petro believes that there shouldn’t be cattle ranching on prairie land, but rather on pasturage that can be used “intensively and with trees that are native to the region.” “Cattle ranching among the trees is what could allow it to be sustainable,” he said.

It should be noted that in the midst of this event, the President invited the President of the Association, José Félix Lafaurie, to be part of the negotiating team that will be talking with the ELN. Lafaurie has already confirmed that he will take part in the process.

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