LA PAZ – A Bolivian environmentalist and former ambassador to the United Nations harshly criticized a government-backed initiative to build a highway through a natural reserve, a plan given the green light by Congress on Wednesday, saying the Andean nation’s current development model was obsolete.
Allies of President Evo Morales “may have the majority in Congress but they’re wrong” on that and other issues, Pablo Solon said in an interview with EFE.
In criticizing the Morales administration, he pointed to projects focused on extracting oil and natural gas reserves, building megadams, developing nuclear energy and constructing roads through natural reserves, all of which are part of the government’s development program through 2025.
Solon, who was Morales’s ambassador to the UN between 2009-2011, resigned after indigenous residents of the Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (Tipnis) protested against plans to build a highway through the reserve to link the central region of Cochabamba with the northeastern region of Beni.
A bill removing Tipnis’s “intangible” status was passed Wednesday by Congress and will become law once Morales signs it.
But Solon said resistance to the highway won’t end after the law is enacted, predicting that multiple sectors of society will come together to oppose its construction.
Tipnis is a 1.2-million-hectare (4,630-square-mile) natural reserve that is home to 14,000 Trinitaria-Moxeña, Yuracare and Chiman Indians, who live in 69 separate communities.
The legislation states that the road project in Tipnis will facilitate the free movement of indigenous people and help fight poverty.
But Solon said the highway would not benefit the majority of the communities and that Morales had backed the legislation to allow the expansion of legal coca plantations for the benefit of coca growers, a key constituency for the leftist president.