Amazon Highway Hits a Roadblock
Bolivian President Evo Morales acquiesced to the indigenous people in cancelling the proposed route of the Brazil to Bolivia Amazon highway. The proposed route would have taken it through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park (TIPNIS), the home of over 15 000 native people. They had been demonstrating against the proposal to bisect their home territory with the controversial highway.
Highways serve as conduits for commerce, but also bring unwanted development, pollution and settlement to untouched areas. Those people living traditionally in the TIPNIS have made their displeasure known over the past few months and action culminated in a walk to the country’s capital, La Paz. In a move that backfired on the beleaguered president, police roughed up the peaceful demonstrators, resulting in the resignation of both the ministers of defense and the interior.
The proposed highway from Brazil to Bolivia would allow the manufactured and mining goods that Brazil produces to be shipped from a Pacific port to the growing economies of Asia. An extension to Peru could also push development there.
While Morales has announced that the national park will not be cut up by the proposed highway, he leaves on the table the possibility that another route may be planned.
Evo Morales is the first president of Bolivia to claim native heritage, but as often is the case in developing nations, accusations have been levelled that he is favouring his tribe over other ethnic groups. He has been a popular president where many have been deposed before their term of office is complete, but has had difficulties with his people in the recent past. He attempted to raise fuel prices and reduce food subsidies earlier this year but was forced to backtrack when the populace made their fury known.