Monday, January 20, 2014

Has Evo Morales Sold his Soul to Big Oil?

article from August 25, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

The short answer is yes!

The flamboyant indigenous coca grower who promised to stand up for the rights of Bolivia’s indigenous majorities has done a 180 degree turn by promoting a highway that is to run smack through Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), a quasi-independent territory and national park. This region has been autonomous since 1990. The area encompasses 1,372,180 ha, of which over 10% has already been squatted upon, primarily by coca farmers.

In addition, the Bolivian government, led by Evo Morales, has awarded several large plots for energy exploration that lie entirely within the park’s boundaries and are not actually the property of the Bolivian nation; rather they belong to the Yuki, Yuracaré, and Mojeño-Trinitario indigenous peoples. The companies Petroandina, YPF from Argentina and PDVSA from Venezuela have been carrying out preliminary explorations of the virgin jungle areas in a joint venture with the Bolivian state oil company. The exploitation of natural resources in pristine areas such as TIPNIS will certainly bring about massive ecological destruction and pollution. One needs to look no further than Ecuador to see the damages that were rained onto that country’s oil-rich Amazonian region.

It goes without saying that, in order to begin the exploitation of the forest’s natural resources, there need to be infrastructure projects, such as a new highway, which is being built as I write this, over the unanimous objection of those whose land is being divided in two. In 2010, when a meeting was called between TIPNIS chiefs and officials, they stated their “overwhelming and unrenouncable opposition” to a project that will bring nothing but trouble to the tribal reserve.

Nevertheless, in June 2011, the indigenous president, who was voted into office on the strength of his heritage, presided over the inauguration of this misguided attempt to bring more money into the national treasury, in spite of the fact that there has never been any investigation into the environmental and human sacrifices that will have to be made. Construction has begun on the first segment, and aerial photos clearly show the amount of destruction taking place. A swath about 200 meters wide is being cut through one of the richest areas of bio diversity in the world. For every five kilometers of road, one full square kilometer of land is destroyed, which, over the 306 km length of the road, means a loss of 61 sq km of habitat, also creating barriers for migrating wildlife and eventually leading to inevitable losses to road kill.

This road is being built with the help of the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES). They have made available to the Bolivians a US$332 million loan, and surely just by the name of the bank, one can easily guess what their goal is. Brazil’s appetite for energy and resources has spilled over into all of South America, and the presence of oil in this region that is so close to Brazil certainly has great attraction to the resource-hungry Tiger of the South.

Meanwhile, the indigenous community of the affected region has embarked on a 370-mile march from the tropical lowland town of Trinidad to La Paz, at the lofty height of 12,000 ft, to protest peacefully against the 185-mile highway that is to bisect their “protected” homeland. Meanwhile, Evo Morales has accused the United States of fomenting this trouble, demanding an audience with the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affairs, John Creamer, claiming he has phone records that implicate the diplomatic mission in conversations with the “rebels” to foment trouble for him. I think this time Evo has just plainly sold out his people, going with the money, instead. Maybe that is the reason he rewrote the constitution to allow himself to run yet again. It seems that all these populist politicians sooner or later crumble and fall into the fold of the corruption that politics breeds.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where that Fine Malbec Wine is unaffected by the souring of relations in Bolivia

[Image of Bolivian President Evo Morales via Wikipedia]

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