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Published on October 28, 2019

Professor Mendoza-Botelho Discusses Amazonian Wildfires and its Impact on Bolivia at Human Rights event at UConn

Recently, the tragedy of the Amazon burning has consumed environmental news. There are many implications both environmentally and politically due to the large impacts of this event. A country of importance during this ongoing event is Bolivia in which a large portion of the Amazon blaze has occurred in.

Bolivia’s newly constructed constitution does include specific protections for the environment as Eastern Professor Mendoza-Botelho explained at the October 12 Annual Workshop of the Economic & Social Rights Group (ESRG) of UConn entitled: “Environmental & Climate Justice: The Existential Challenge of Economic Rights”. According to him, in 2012, Bolivia promulgated Law No. 300 of Mother Earth and Integral Development for ‘Living Well’ (in Spanish Vivir Bien). Within this new addition, the Bolivian government recognizes the fundamental rights of Mother Earth along with encouraging the collaboration of sustainable development and social goals. However, with the election of President Morales the general public policy goals have shifted slightly. His goals include utilizing the many natural resources available in Bolivia to help boost the economy. This would include extracting hydrocarbons, promoting the production of biofuels, and employ controlled forest burning for agricultural purposes. Morales still recognizes the rights of indigenous communities within their protected areas.

This course of action has produced evident issues in Bolivia. Most noticeably, Bolivia has been facing mounting development pressures as the abundance of natural resources has not been met with the advanced infrastructure it requires. There are also concerns about the commodification of these resources with little concerns for the environment along with the growing impacts of climate change.

The Amazon fires have caused a lot of damage in Bolivia and have certainly affected their natural resources. This was part of Professor Mendoza-Botelho’s argument during his presentation: “Commodifying the Amazon: Agricultural and Social Expansion in Bolivia as Triggers for Natural Disasters”. The fires have scorched nearly 4.8% of the land in Bolivia. The fires have certainly affected Bolivia’s recent elections held on October 20th. Among others, there was a delayed response to declare a national state of emergency which was not received well. Along with the recorded deaths of 5 individuals and 2.3 million animals, this has not produced good publicity for the government. With impeding climate change, this places a lot of countries like Bolivia in a difficult situation as they do not have the capabilities to continue to fight fires at this scale. It will be interesting to see how issues like these will be addressed in the near future and how the problematic election will conclude.


Written by Alyssa Wessner