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By Pablo Cingolani
By decision of President Evo Morales, a month ago, Dr. It is a strategic position since the direct administration of 16 percent of the Bolivian territory depends on his office.
"We will nationalize the Protected Areas as we did with gas"
By decision of President Evo Morales, a month ago, Dr. It is a strategic position since the direct administration of 16 percent of the Bolivian territory depends on his office, numerous natural resources that include the most precious of the biodiversity of one of the most megadiverse countries on the planet, and the presence of indigenous and native peoples who live within those areas, peoples that constitute the historical guardians of that heritage and that treasure knowledge that, if well used, could revolutionize Bolivia and the world.
-Mr. Flores: in what situation did the administration of the Protected Areas find itself?
-When I took office by decision of fellow President Evo Morales, SERNAP was virtually dead or dying. There is a very large deficit of resources that can paralyze the institution and there was no efficient policy - taking into account the potential of the areas that we have in Bolivia - to attract financing by Fundesnap - which is a private institution imposed by the neoliberal governments on duty to administer external funds on behalf of the Bolivian State. While there were consultants who earned $ 18,000 per month, the looting of natural resources and biodiversity and the destruction of national nature worsened, the management of Protected Areas became uncontrolled and there was discontent within the same areas, and there were flagrant cases of corruption and negligence in the administration of the National Service of Protected Areas (SNAP) - which includes more than 20 national parks and reserves throughout the Bolivian territory - that we are investigating and that we will bring to justice, because impunity for looting of the patrimony of all Bolivians must end.
-What are the causes of this situation taking into account the enormous Bolivian potential in biodiversity?
-It is a paradox that being one of the fifteen nations with the greatest biodiversity in the world, in the last ten years, SNAP has become an island of looting and impunity for the benefit of local oligarchies, illegal mafias that traffic wood, gold and resources of biodiversity and NGOs that claim to preserve the environment but that end up associated with oil companies in joint business partnerships such as the Chiquitano Forest Conservation Foundation (FCBC), which we are investigating.
The Bolivian territory suffered the indiscriminate looting of its renewable natural resources since the Spanish Colony. During the republic, the looting continued and benefited the oligarchic groups, it is enough to remember what happened with cinchona and rubber, and now with agribusiness in Santa Cruz and Brazil nuts in the North Amazon.
But in the last twenty years, this looting has worsened: the destruction of nature has advanced at a rate of 200,000 hectares per year, largely the responsibility of agro-industrial, predatory and transgenic agriculture. This looting not only destroyed the ecosystems where our plants and animals live but, and this is the most dramatic thing, it affected the lives of our indigenous peoples, especially in the East, the Amazon and the Gran Chaco. I think there is only one cause: as the State was weakened by the neoliberal governments and the strategic springs of the economy were handed over to the transnationals, the sovereign control of our environment and our protected areas was also weakened and their administration and control of NGOs and the impositions of international cooperation. This is no more: the government headed by Comrade President Evo Morales is a government of dignity and national sovereignty and of recovery of all natural resources, as it has already proven with hydrocarbons. We, from this office, and following the mandate of the President, are going to nationalize the protected areas like the Companion Evo did with gas, we are going to recover the protected areas and the national parks for the Bolivians.
-What does it mean to nationalize protected areas?
- It means, above all, recognizing that indigenous and native peoples have historically conserved and managed the natural resources and biodiversity of the different ecosystems that the Bolivian territory harbors. If they hadn't done it, there would be no biodiversity to conserve in Bolivia. So, it was neither the Colonial State, neoliberalism, nor even the NGOs that do business with poverty and biodiversity in Bolivia that were responsible for the current survival of a unique natural heritage: it was indigenous peoples and native communities. Therefore, nationalizing protected areas is, first, to incorporate these indigenous peoples and native peasant communities at all levels of administration and management of Protected Areas, taking into account geographical, ethnic, conservation and productive criteria. This is a process that we have already started and that should conclude with the transfer of the areas to their true owners.
Second, we are going to integrate national parks into the rest of the national territory, breaking the chronic isolation suffered by most of them and the constant violation of the nation's sovereignty in those border areas and where international mafias of looting natural resources operate. This integration will take place through development actions that involve indigenous and native communities and also with the Armed Forces of the Nation, with which we intend a permanent coordination work that is already being carried out.
Finally, nationalizing protected areas is to take advantage of biodiversity in an economic and non-destructive way for the benefit of the inhabitants of the areas and of all Bolivians. Here we will follow the main lines of the National Development Plan presented by the government: biodiversity can become the strategic income of the nation for the 21st century, in the post-gas era. When we talk about the use of biodiversity, we talk about industrializing non-traditional natural resources and taking advantage of them for human food and medicine, we talk about environmental services, community tourism, all within the umbrella of the National Institute of Biodiversity and the guidelines of the policies of change led by comrade Evo Morales.
-Will they seek alliances to develop all these tasks?
-Since now. Our strategic alliance is with social movements, with the peoples and communities of the areas. It must be clear to the world, to that developed and polluted world that needs our air, our water and our biodiversity, that for this management the fundamental concern is the defense of nature, our Pachamama, and the peoples and communities Indigenous people living in Protected Areas. But it must also be clear to that world that Bolivia is a sovereign nation, with a dignified president and that we will no longer accept any more impositions, wherever they come from. Biodiversity must come first for Bolivians: it cannot be that having so many resources in flora and fauna, the children of Madidi, for example, cannot be cured of white leprosy. It cannot be that the Manuripi community members live in poverty. It could not be that you go hungry inside the areas and outside them. We are working hard, first to audit and order the disastrous inheritance that neoliberal surrender left us, and then to start with a firm footing the policy of nationalization of protected areas. Now, Bolivia is respected, and we will enforce Bolivian sovereignty within the areas and the dignity of the people who inhabit them.
La Paz, July 12, 2006