By Pablo Cingolani
The most populated city in the Amazon, Riberalta, where more than sixty thousand Bolivians live, isolates itself. If there are supplies that someone sends.
Like every year, most of the Bolivian Amazon territory is flooded.
It rains in the Amazon and it rains in the Andean headwaters of the rivers. They descend sweeping down, dragging tons of sediment, entire trees, buses, people and taking everything: houses, roads, bridges, property, goods.
The most populated city in the Amazon, Riberalta, where more than sixty thousand Bolivians live, isolates itself. If the runway is usable. If there are supplies that someone sends.
Other cities, towns, hamlets, dozens of indigenous communities, thousands of people who live on the banks of the rivers or near the few roads in the area are also isolated.
The Amazonian population groans and suffers from the lack of food, gasoline, and services. Many have nothing to eat. They are hungry. They must wait for the waters to recede.
It also dies: human beings are washed away, livestock and farmyard animals die. The farms are lost. Drinking water is contaminated. Infectious diseases spread. School classes are interrupted.
The Amazon floods and collapses every year: nature never forgives and that's how it was and that's how Amazonian life is during the rainy season.
But with all the pain and rigor for the conditions of existence that nature imposes on the inhabitants of the Bolivian Amazon region, the main drama that the Amazonians suffer historically is not the rains, it is not water up to the neck even in the cities –Which, to tell the truth, are not if not extensive camps of people lacking any comfort to live well and with dignity-, it is not nature: the Amazonian tragedy is oblivion and it is the abandonment to which they are condemned.
The 20th century was for the East
The Amazon does not exist: it appears only on maps and not even that: it is the area where there are still incredible information gaps.
The Amazon does not exist because the Amazon is far away: at present, getting to Cobija from the seat of government is an event of three or four days, if the driver is an ace at the wheel and chance blesses him.
The Amazon does not exist because the Amazon is far away because no one was strategically concerned with bringing it closer, integrating it, adding it to the rest of Bolivia.
The Amazon is an island, a colony far from national centralism and the lack of a vision of the territory that disengages us from the Andes and the axis that begins in La Paz and ends in Santa Cruz.
Fifty years ago, the national state set out to incorporate the East into the rest of the Republic. ! This process, which began the National Revolution, was fully accomplished: there can be no doubt that today not only is Santa Cruz integrated with the rest of the country, but that it is the fundamental engine of the Bolivian economy.
Now, in the 21st century, it's up to the North, the Amazon. It is the last frontier.
Integrate the Amazon
A government of change with as much social legitimacy as the one headed by Evo Morales Aima should objectively set itself the task of integrating the entire national territory in a definitive way. It is true: it is a colossal and heroic task but no less necessary and urgent.
If Evo begins the process of Amazonian integration, his government will mark the history of the country and will write the final page of a course where the traces of the looting and territorial dismemberment suffered by the republic are mixed, but also the efforts to affirm and defend its sovereignty, reaffirming the Andean-Amazonian identity of Bolivia.
It will follow the example of Tarano, the chief of the Toromonas, and of Arapo, the chief of the Uchupiamonas, who tenaciously opposed the Spanish conquerors and won, avoiding colonialist imposition. The conduct of Santos Pariamo, the martyr Leco, captain of the War for the First Independence, who preferred to die rather than surrender, and Bruno Racua, the warrior Tacana, who ensured Bolivian sovereignty up to the Acre River with his actions will continue. He will value the attitude of Colonel José Manuel Pando, tireless explorer, and Captain Lino Echeverría, who died defending national sovereignty on the Manuripe River.
If Evo starts the Amazon integration process, history will change.
300 indigenous peoples inhabited the Amazon: today thirty survive, after centuries of genocide and ethnocide, after centuries of a history of massacres and uprooting.
Even for historical justice, to recognize the rights they deserve -without going any further: for having conserved the territory with one of the greatest biodiversity in the whole world-, the Bolivian State should integrate the Amazon, rebelling against backwardness, oblivion and injustice, which are the fundamental elements of the true Amazonian tragedy.
A sign of hope
Yesterday, in his speech-report on his first month in office as President of the Republic of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, made reference to a historic event. After visiting the strategic city of Riberalta, along with the President of the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), the Bolivian Enrique García, committed him to financing the paving of the road that connects the aforementioned population with Guayaramerín, a city located in the neuralgic border with Brazil.
Both constitute one of the hearts - the other is the city of Cobija - of the integration of the Amazonian North of the country with its neighbors: the Brazilian colossus and the Republic of Peru.
From the perspective of regional development and the Amazon subregion of central-western South America, the concrete paving of this 89-kilometer-long highway is a fundamental milestone.
But it is even more important in the aforementioned dimension: that a President of the Republic in his first month of government, has decided to offer his decisive support to the cause of Amazonian integration is not only a merit that honors Mr. Evo Morales but also a true sign of hope.
As the President himself has said in his message, “hopefully” that this commitment becomes a reality and the inhabitants of the Beni Amazon can leave physical isolation behind, laying more solid foundations for their sustainable development and thus being able to live better.
I also hope that this is only the beginning of a process of true integration of the North with the rest of the Republic, a process that we hope will be led by the State based on strategic planning and the determined participation of its main beneficiaries: the original inhabitants of The Amazon.
We are talking, we insist, of one of the most important biodiversity reservoirs in the world, therefore, whether it is the construction of a road or any of the actions that it is desired to undertake, its implications should be taken into account as a priority. environmental, since Amazonian integration should be marked by effective policies for the preservation of nature that, on the other hand, constitutes the basis of its economic take-off, through a rational and sustainable use of the tropical humid forest, an ecosystem that characterizes to the Amazon.
The indigenous peoples know more about this than anyone else and it is with them, Mr. President, that the most progress can be made in a policy of real integration, historical reparation and social justice.
Yesterday, Evo Morales announced to the Amazonian people and to all Bolivians a great work and a sign of hope. So that it is not frustrated, let us start working together from now on for a sustainable Amazon, for a united Amazon, for a standing Amazon.