by STAFF WRITER
January 21, 2022
by Ivan Cairo
PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Jan 21, CMC – Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, ended a two -day official visit to Suriname on Thursday night, after signing a joint declaration with his host, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi aimed at improving bilateral relations between the two countries.
“I am convinced that our peoples will benefit immensely from this,” Bolsonaro said at the signing ceremony.
Bolsonaro was due to travel to Guyana on Friday, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Georgetown said that the visit had been cancelled due to the death of the mother of the Brazilian leader.
While the two leaders met here on Thursday, environmental activists held a protest against Bolsonaro’s visit near the Presidential Palace, while a group of Brazilians living in Suriname, dressed in the colours of the Brazilian flag, held a support demonstration.
“’Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro, go home) and ‘No respect for land, water animals and people. Solidarity with the Pataxõ Hã-Hã-Hãe’,” according to banners held up by the demonstrators who have been critical of Bolsonaro’s environmental policy saying it has resulted in the destruction of the Amazon forest, the habitat of a large group of indigenous people.
But Bolsonaro was unable to see the protest as the authorities used a different route to get him to the Presidential Palace.
The demonstrators are also opposed to plans that include the construction of a more than 1,300 kilometer (km) long road from the north of Brazil to Guyana or Suriname.
The three countries say that the road will facilitate the export of Brazilian products to the rest of the world.
But the protestors say that the project will result in irreparable damage to the Amazon rainforest and environmentalist Erland Sleur, chairman of the Foundation to protect our biodiversity Suriname (Probios) said, Suriname should not have invited Bolsonaro to visit the country.
Flanked by other environmentalists, Sleur said the Brazilian head of state is internationally accused of having created such an atmosphere in his country as a result of which indigenous leaders who stand up against his policies and for the rights of their tribesmen suffer human rights abuses.
According to Sleur, Suriname has nothing to offer the larger neighbouring country, saying that the only reason why Brasilia is interested in Paramaribo is because of the Dutch-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) large oil reserves which have been discovered off the Surinamese coast recently.
Sleur maintained that since the Surinamese government claims to be in favour of protecting human rights it should not have any cooperation with Bolsonaro.
Following their discussions, President Bolsonaro said that he wanted the Brazilian oil company Petrobras to have a strong presence in oil and gas explorations off the Surinamese coast.
“Brazil has a huge amount of experience in oil exploration and wants to make it available to Suriname. I welcome the consultation we have had and we hope that Petrobras will also be visibly present to work together on oil and gas exploration,” said the Brazilian head of state.
Both governments agreed to exchanging information regarding national energy plans, regulatory experience in the oil and gas sector, including local content regulation and cooperation in the prevention of oil spill accidents.
Cooperation in the field of energy interconnection between Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname had also been discussed.
Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, also participated in the discussions.
President Santokhi said the talks were held in a friendly environment and that Suriname and Brazil discussed matters of mutual interest,
“Today we have decided to resume regular consultations within the framework of the bilateral mechanism of political consultations, which were established in 2005,” said President Santokhi.