Reposted from Al Jazeera
Bolivian indigenous activists have started a long protest march from the Amazon plains to the country’s capital in against a government plan to build a 306km highway through a national park in indigenous territory.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has gained notoriety as an environmentally friendly leader and Bolivia’s first indigenous-identified president, which is significant for many locals because the country has a higher per capita indigenous population than any other Latin American country.
Less than a year ago, Morales told Al Jazeera that he is opposed to environmentally destructive development practices that are common in ‘indistrialised’ countries.
“[Those practices are] leaving the world without ecology. I called it ecolocide, which will lead to genocide,” he said.
Organisers of the march have said that they are reacting Morales’ hypocritical stance on climate change and environmentalism, pointing to his promoting of natural gas development and oil exploration.
“Morales isn’t a defender of Mother Earth. His rhetoric is empty,” said Rafael Quispe, leader of the main indigenous organization in Bolivia’s highlands, Conamaq.
Excerpt from Evo on the rocks: Decepción in Bolivia By Chellis Glendinning, The Rag Blog, June 16, 2011
Forked Tongue I: Madre Tierra
A Dec. 30, 2010 protest against gas price hikes. image from FM Center es Noticia
Out of one tine of what has become the Morales administration’s two-sided tongue come blood-stirring proclamations like the president’s empassioned grito “¡Planeta o Muerte!” at the 2010 Cancun climate change talks. Brilliant. Then there is the stark refusal, that not even Cuba or Venezuela would match, to sign on to the watered-down agreement at said talks.
And now comes the nation’s new law proclaiming the rights of Madre Tierra—to some minds, a legal-philosophic leap forward that, a few decades ago, only bioregionalists, primitive-anarchists, and traditional Native peoples could imagine.
But, sorry to say, the other spine of the eco-fork must be noted:
- the launch of genetically-modified agriculture into a countryside presently free of GMOs;
- two under-construction hydro-electric dams 300% bigger than the U.S.’s Hoover Dam at a cost of $13 billion, slated to channel water to Brazil in exchange for monies to boost Bolivia’s petro and plastic industries—this, in a country where many communities have no potable water and water-borne illnesses are rampant;
- in a nation uncontaminated by nuclear radiation: uranium mining, with future plans for nuclear power plants—aided by Iran;
- blankets of electromagnetic radiation in the form of WiMAX over urban landscapes – with the state telecommunications corporation bragging of 1350 radiobases in an area the size of Texas and California combined, with many more to come;
- commodity-transporting highways bulldozing through protected nature reserves whose treasures, in the case of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos road, include 11 endangered species and three Native groups in 60 communities living their traditional hunter-gatherer-fishing lifeways;
- new oil excavations;
- new gas excavations;
- in partnership with Mitubishi, Sumitomo, South Korea, and Iran: massive lithium development—threatening leeching, leaks, emissions, and spills in the world-treasure salt flats;
- Bolivia’s own Made-in-China satellite;
- with the help of India, the construction of humankind’s largest iron mine;
- 900 miles of pipeline slated to transport natural gas to Argentina; and
- an explosion of airport and high-rise construction.
In other words: full-tilt, high-tech, colossal-scale, high-capital modernization—on a Madre Tierra in which such expansion has already been shown to be The Problem…