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Climate activists call for action in Latin America

May 24, 2019
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A student holds a sign up to her forehead with a message that reads in Portuguese: "Earth has lost its patience, us too", during a protest against President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policies, in front of the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, May 24, 2019. A small group of students gathered outside the state legislature to deliver a letter dated from the future in which they lamented Brazil's loss of coastline, rainforests and species. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Climate change activists in Latin America rallied for action on global warming Friday, heeding a call by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg to hold demonstrations across the world.

In Rio de Janeiro, a small group of students gathered outside the state legislature to deliver a letter dated from the future in which they lamented Brazil’s loss of coastline, rainforests and species.

“We, the Brazilians of the future, are also asking you: is there anything more important than protecting life and ensuring a quality future for the next generations? No, there is not,” they wrote.

In more than a dozen other cities throughout the country, youth also staged strikes and took to the streets, using the issue to challenge the environmental policies of the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro says excessive regulation has hindered economic development and has moved to strip the environment ministry’s authority over water and forestry services.

Last week, his environment minister questioned the effectiveness of the Amazon Fund created to contain deforestation. The minister has also called climate change a “secondary issue.”

Meanwhile, in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, a few dozen protesters explicitly abstained from commenting on politics amid a monthslong standoff between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Andreina Duffy said protesters were careful not to voice opinions about the conflict between the Venezuelan government and the opposition but were prepared to criticize “whatever government exists” on environmental issues. She said economic hardship had compelled many Venezuelans to consume and waste less, making them more aware of the need to conserve.

“Of course, there’s still a lot to do,” she said.

Her daughter, 7-year-old Victoria Duffy, showed up with a picture of Earth.

“You can make a difference,” the poster read.

In Mexico City, a few hundred demonstrators gathered on the steps of a central monument before marching several miles (kilometers) to the sprawling main square known as the Zocalo.

Natalia Naranjo, 19, of the environmental group Nosotros por la Selva (We for the Forest), came to the demonstration in an animal-print top with her face painted to resemble a jaguar’s.

She expressed concern about a project known as the Mayan Train that would link beaches, cities and ancient ruins along the length of the Yucatan Peninsula and down into the state of Chiapas. Critics have said the fast-tracked project, designed to cater to tourists and boost the economies of poor communities, could threaten the environment, and Naranjo called for modifications such as elevating the train or making passageways for animals to cross.

“What we are trying to do is for them to evaluate the Mayan Train project, to evaluate the environmental impact that is being created and come up with solutions,” Naranjo said.

Naranjo called Thunberg “an inspiration for the whole planet.”

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