Bolivian bishops rap president’s decision to open tribal land for development
August 21, 2017
Church leaders in Bolivia have criticized President Evo Morales for signing legislation that will allow development in a national park and in previously protected tribal lands.
The lifting of protections on the Isiboro Secure National Park and Idigenous Territory will allow the construction of a highway through the region: a project that was strongly opposed by residents. Bishop Eugenio Coter of Pando protested that the government was “imposing its will on the people” in the region. “The government doesn’t listen to the people, especially not indigenous people,” he complained.
When critics of the development project pointed out that the proposed road would benefit coca growers (and Morales once headed the coca-growers’ union), government officials replied that the Catholic Church owns substantial acreage in the affected region. Archbishop Oscar Aparicio Cespedes of Cochabamba angrily replied that it was “unacceptable” to insinuate that the Church was connected with cocaine production. The suggestion, he said, was “a tactic meant to intimidate or frighten” opponents of the policy.