February 28, 2007

Evo Morales: "The developed nations are to blame...they damage the environment....we have to take it."

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The post title quotes Evo Morales talking about the climate disasters due to El Nino currently affecting Bolivia (click on the link below to read it in Spanish).

Since last December Bolivia has been suffering under the effects of El Nino. This La Razón graph shows the kinds of climate misfortunes under way. The worst 'disaster' is seen here in the red. It covers the region where various rivers (including the Mamore) have flooded, not just land, but also many communities. For the last two weeks or so, there have been reports about people living on the roofs of their houses, with inadequate clothing and no food. Pretty precarious conditions. The graph also shows how many families have been affected, in which areas are they located, and even gives estimates of loses for the cattle ranchers.

The UN has been one of the first international organizations to call to help for Bolivia. While international aid has been coming in, it has also been too slow. Even the government has been slow in reacting. Just today, Morales and his government will talk about declaring 'some' regions as disaster areas. The main reason the government has been slow in declaring much of Beni as a disaster area is because of the side effects this emergency status will have on the government's land reform process. If Morales declared these region as disaster area -the region in question including the lands of the cattle ranchers considered 'too rich' for Morales- the process would have to be stopped for at least three years due to an article in the land reform law which says that no land affected by natural disasters can be treated by this law. Political decisions are everywhere to be made, it seems, even in times of emergency.

The unwillingness of the government to declare Beni as a disaster zone has made waves throughout the political landscape. On February 24, the Prefect of Beni, has asked Morales to do this. In recent days, the opposition has qualified the government as insensitive for not doing it. The government has been awaiting reports from the areas to make its decision. No government official has been willing to accept that the area was a disaster zone. The national emergency director, Gonzalo Lora, has even said that what was happening in Beni could not be qualified as emergency because there were no dead and the region did not look like a war zone (read here in Spanish).