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Territory belonging to Bolivia’s indigenous Tsimane people has been devastated by recent wildfires (Crux/Sr Gladis Montecinos)

A Latin American bishops conference commission has warned that a record number of wildfires in the Amazonian region of Bolivia are related to legal changes in recent years that have promoted deforestation. Source: Crux.

In October alone, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 fire spots were detected in Bolivia, especially in the country’s Amazonian department of Beni.

On December14, the Commission of Indigenous Peoples of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM) released a statement claiming that a 2019 law that opened more than 40 per cent of Beni’s territory to agricultural exploitation negatively impacted “the territory and the ways of life of its inhabitants” and intensified the “effects of devastation and drought”.

The Bolivian bishops have urged urgent measures to ensure the protection of numerous Indigenous peoples that live in the most affected regions. The declaration of CELAM emphasised that the wildfires have been putting pressure on Indigenous communities to leave their territories.

According to the commission, the legal changes in 2019 were made without the previous consultation of the region’s Indigenous residents, something it claims violates the International Labor Organisation’s convention.

The impact of the wildfires on a number of Indigenous communities in Beni reportedly has been devastating. The Tsimane people, the commission said, have seen their traditional woods being reduced to ashes, as well as their maize and cocoa crops. Many people lost their homes and are now living in makeshift tents.

“We urge local and national authorities to take the appropriate measures to reverse the normative frameworks that encourage the violation of the Indigenous peoples’ right to their territory,” the statement read.


LatAm bishops link Amazon wildfires to deforestation, assaults on Indigenous (By Eduardo Campos Lima, Crux)