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Fire, manipulation and disinformation in Bolivia

In contrast to the demagogy of the opposition with regards to the fires in Chiquitania, president Evo Morales consolidated his leadership with clear action and on 27 August declared an environmental hiatus in the area.


Jorge Petinaud Martínez


“I have decided to declare an environmental hiatus, which consists in banning the sale of lands in the affected area and also preparing ourselves for after the fire, because what we are fighting must come to an end”, assured the president.

Early on in the day, Morales joined the Environmental Emergency Cabinet, which has been meeting for over a week in the town of Roboré, where he received information first hand.

According to his statements on television, the uninterrupted measures being implemented to mitigate the flames reduced the number of heat sources from an initial 8,000 to 1,036.

He commented that over 4,000 people have been working in the area, including soldiers, police, firefighters and volunteers, along with aerial resources, which included chartering one of the largest planes in the world, the Boeing 747-44 SuperTanker.

The transaction to charter the aircraft cost one million US dollars, its daily use costs USD 60,000, and each hour of flight sets the government back another USD 16,000.

Morales has reiterated that this colossal firefighting plane will provide services in Bolivia as long as necessary, and ordered the Ministry of Defence and Aviation to look into acquiring a similar aircraft with the aim to prevent similar disasters. The fires have been ravaging areas of the Amazon in Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.

By the end of the aerial mission, more than two million litres of water had been used by the SuperTanker along with smaller planes and helicopters to mitigate the fire.

The leader of indigenous origin requested that instead of protesting, people must unite to protect biodiversity. He recalled previous situations such as the lack of water in the capital of La Paz, a problem which was solved through organisation to mobilise efforts.

On 27 August, the head of state also flew over the different areas affected by the flames and gave instructions to members of the Emergency Cabinet.

The forces will continue to work round the clock under the orders of the Environmental Emergency Cabinet established on 19 August in Roboré, the epicentre of the disaster. The cabinet was created by the national leader during his visit to the region that day.

On the other side, the opposition has been attacking from the outset by spreading fake news on social media, mobilising protests in light of the fear among residents of Santa Cruz, and even making biased statements to the press.

One of the most ludicrous examples comes from Carlos Mesa, the presidential candidate for the party Comunidad Ciudadana, who posed in some of the areas of Roboré that were devastated by the flames, and then posted the photos on social media, blaming the government for this environmental catastrophe.

So deplorable were his actions, that the opposing governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, criticised him publicly and accused him of trying to steal the spotlight in the run-up to elections.

Yet the highest disapproval of Mesa’s actions was reflected in the results of a survey published on 24 August by CELAG, the Latin-American Strategic Geopolitical Centre.

According to the survey, Morales leads by 18 points in terms of voting intention with regard to the general elections in October.

According to the second large-scale survey @CELAGeopolitica in Bolivia (2000 people surveyed in-person across the country), “Evo grows and leads by 18 points ahead of Mesa, who continues to decline while Ortiz improves,” tweeted Alfredo Serrano Mancilla, Director of CELAG. Morales climbed from 37.5 to 43.4% since the previous survey conducted in March, while Mesa fell from 28.6 to 25.1% in an evident decreasing trend. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn: – Photos: Pixabay

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