Wildfires Rage in Bolivian Amazon
The Amazon Rainforest is on fire - but not only in Brazil. Forest fires in Bolivia have reached an all-time high in recent months. The fires have caused a massive loss in both human life and biodiversity. Critics have declared that these fires have been exacerbated by the policies of President Evo Morales.
Morales, who is currently vying for a 4th term in office, has a history of protecting corporate interests in the Amazon. He passed a law in 2016 that decreased limits on slash-and-burn agriculture practices for individual farmers. Earlier this year, he passed a law permitting controlled burns in order to introduce new land for agriculture and ranching. Despite these policies, Morales has recently made an effort to portray himself as an environmental advocate. He has distanced himself from Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, by accepting international aid from the United States, Russia, and Argentina to combat the ever-growing fires.
However, according to Cecilia Requena, an opposition politician and environmentalist, “He is promoting exactly the same policies as Bolsonaro.” She also claims that Morales’ efforts have been “late, chaotic, and ineffectual.” In addition, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), include their name here, released a statement claiming that Morales and Bolsonaro are “gutting every environmental and social strategy to strengthen environmental governance of the Amazon” and that the two leaders are responsible for the “cultural and environmental genocide” occurring in the Amazon today.
The effects of the fires have severely impacted the ecology of the region. According to scientists at the College of Biologists in La Paz, “regeneration of the local ecosystem will take about 300 years.” More than 47% of the fires have also affected “protected areas” of high biodiversity, which has contributed to the shifting ecological landscape.
The forest fires have taken a toll on human life as well. Untrained volunteer firefighters unequipped to handle fires of this magnitude have died. It is impossible to know the exact amount of indigenous people who have died as a result of the fires.
The effect of this natural catastrophe on Morales’ reelection campaign is yet to be determined. For now, both major candidates in the Bolivian presidential election have opted to suspend their campaigns in order to address the forest fires.