Bolivia: Amazon highway plans on hold
Plans for a proposed highway that would cut through Bolivia’s Amazon rain forest, linking Brazil to ports in Chile and Peru, have been put on hold following protests by activists and allegations of excessive police force.
Indigenous and environmentalist activists are staunchly opposed to the highway’s construction, which is being financed by Brazil and would run through preserved Amazon forest. The rainforest is home to some 15 thousand indigenous Bolivians.
About 1,000 protesters were staging a 500km march on the main city La Paz when they were stopped by riot police on Sunday in the Yucumo region.
The outcry against both the construction of the road and the violence used by police has prompted Bolivian president Evo Morales to halt plans for the highway, despite his strong support for the plan.
The residents fear an influx of settlers would destroy their habitat, felling trees and polluting rivers. Environmentalists say the road would mostly benefit Brazilian commercial interests such as timber exporters while endangering a pristine nature preserve.
Morales attempted to distance himself from the controversy by announcing on Monday night that the decision will be left in the hands of the governments of the regions where the highway is planned.