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Another Amazon myth? False oil desire?

Another Amazon myth? False oil desire?

By Pablo Cingolani

What should we know if we have a Camisea in the Amazon or not? As a matter of principle, let's say yes, that we must exercise our sovereign right to quantify our natural resources. But there too, and given the specific and strategic nature of Amazon ecogeography, we should have already started, even before this oil rush makes us rave in Kuwaiti, the studies to quantify the main wealth of the Amazon: biodiversity


The fever to find oil in the North of La Paz is more harmful than influenza A. We dream of bathing in that disgusting liquid and, in the plunge, solving all our political, economic and social problems. If we find oil in the North of La Paz, we are going to balance the regional power in Bolivia, the old men of the Civic Committee for La Paz told me that they met in the Club of La Paz, there in the Obelisco, when I began to settle here, in 1987. The attempts were in vain: at least as far as I remember, YPFB during the government of Jaime Paz Zamora drilled the Lliquimuni X1 well in the same area where Petroandina-Geokinetics is now working.

What was found in the nineties? Nothing that we know of, nothing that deserved to be highlighted in that super sensitive world that is the oil world. Half a drop is discovered in Kazakhstan and the New York Stock Exchange explodes. Did you hide the information when the Capitalization? They tried to do the same with San Alberto, in the Tarijeño Chaco, and they could not.

We are going after a chimera that would rearm the geopolitical map of power in Bolivia and, it is evident, that nobody can bet on the oil horse. There may be oil but in negligible quantities (the minister himself acknowledged it), reserves that do not leverage anything, nor do they serve to tip the balance towards the West. Another myth that will be buried by history and by the jungle.

We have a distorted image of the Amazon. Historically, for those in charge and for those who do not know or understand the Amazon, it continues to be a geographical void where projects are made or are being done, where the possibility of finding El Dorado continues to beat, where anyone can do whatever they want. in win and be filled with money by the handful.

In modernity, we fall back into the same mirage of the Spaniards who searched for Paititi, and who certainly never found it, because they never understood the indigenous worldview. In modern times, we continue to recreate one myth after another: the March to the North, the Bala Dam, the San Buenaventura development pole, the North Corridor, oil ... Pepelucho was to blame for raising the issue, showing his bottle of water oily in the Plaza Murillo and, ad nauseam, in a television spot.

Nazario Pardo Valle, in his Monograph of the Caupolicán Province (the current Franz Tamayo) spoke of the “oil” of the Kerosén River, a tributary of the Tuichi, north of Apolo. In 2000, we slept in the Ubito River camp that had belonged to an oil company in the 1970s and was now occupied by the Tuichi Outpost Military Post.

Downstream of Tuichi himself, many Josesanos tell you when they worked in oil exploration work. On that side of the jungle, there is even a well that is cemented. It can be seen in an audiovisual documentary made by CEFREC.


We insist: all that information about the search for oil already carried out in the North of La Paz, where is it? Did the transnationals take it? Who can tell the truth about what is being done in the North of La Paz? Since, above all, it is replaying the good faith and hope of many people, not only indigenous peoples, but also the inhabitants of all those regions that are always forgotten, always postponed and always depressed because their true productive vocations.

The oil dream, gentlemen, is just that: a dream and, as Shakespeare would say, words, words, words, and as far as we know, it did not reactivate the economy of northern La Paz, but it is putting at risk what little of the good that had been advanced around an economy more harmonious with the exceptional natural environment: ecotourism and agroecological activity.

To value this development model is to understand the latent power in a department like La Paz. To suppose that La Paz must repeat the monoproducer extractivist scheme that Santa Cruz and then Tarija experienced is to detract from the true economic destiny of a space of geographic and cultural interactions as diverse as the one that makes up the department of La Paz.

On the other hand, you have to see Tarija, for example: did the gas wealth benefit the Chaco, where gas is extracted? Does the economic development of the Central Valley have to do with the gas boom? The beginning of an economic diversification, based on the agricultural vocation and essentially affirmed in the development of the productive chain of the grape, was it achieved thanks to gas? It would be good for those from Tarija to speak.

Betting on an otherwise uncertain oil as the engine of the La Paz takeoff, is playing all or nothing.

What should we know if we have a Camisea in the Amazon or not? As a matter of principle, let's say yes, that we must exercise our sovereign right to quantify our natural resources. But there too, and given the specific and strategic nature of Amazonian ecogeography, we should have already begun, even before this oil rush makes us rave in Kuwaiti, studies to quantify the main wealth of the Amazon: biodiversity.

If we had studies on the economic value of biodiversity, if we had studies on the value of ecotourism and non-destructive agriculture ventures, above all, we would know how much potential we would be destroying and if it is worth doing.

It is a contradiction: Amazonian biodiversity is coveted by all industrial powers, who send their scientists undercover under the cloak of foreign conservation NGOs (which nobody controls, by the way), who bioprospect our nature (in Creole: they loot plants and animals ) right under our noses.

Does anyone know that the development of the North American pharmaceutical industry, the most powerful in the world, has to do, essentially, with the new knowledge in biotechnology applied to South American plants? Didn't you see that movie with Sean Connery where they want us to believe that the biopirate is the good guy and the bulldozers that destroy the forest are the bad guys? They are both bad. The desirable thing is to also exercise environmental sovereignty and that the Amazon is free from oil tankers but also from pirate conservationists.

All this would deserve, from now on, the broadest of debates and not just some urgent lines because oil is still being explored in the north and, most likely, we are traveling, once again, a path towards a new frustration, putting even at risk, as we said, the good already done, and above all by the indigenous communities: Mapajo, Chalalán, San Miguel del Bala and other ecotourism ventures in the Madidi jungle and its surroundings are there to prove it.

It would be very good for the authorities to take a little tour there: the next cabinet can be held in Chalalán instead of always in Huajchilla.

Perhaps, if they let themselves be caught by the magnetism of the jungle, by the flight of the enigmatic koatzín, by the eyes of the alligators shining in the dark night, by the shouts of the early morning drive, perhaps if they felt all that, they would go down a The temperature of this oil fever is little, and more relaxed and less pressured, perhaps they sit down to dialogue with indigenous peoples and peasant organizations about how to make Amazonian biodiversity a more important source of sustainable income generation than the one they represent today that gas and that oil that, sooner or later, one day, will run out.

La Paz, August 10, 2009


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