BOLIVIA (ACN News): Declaring that “cultivation and logging must cease”, the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia has condemned the widespread cultivation of coca and the destruction of rainforests.
The Government of the South American country is set to approve the clear-felling of further forests.
Additionally, a highway linking eastern Bolivia with Western Brazil is planned to run through the heart of a nature reserve.
This would not only destroy important resources but also promote the spread of coca, Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti, Auxiliary of Santa Cruz archdiocese, told staff members of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The planned road would slash through the heart of the Isiboro Secure National Park, a region that has been officially set aside for indigenous peoples.
Critics of the project fear an increase in illegal logging and further environmental destruction due to new settlement along the planned route.
Because of this, the bishops’ conference has drafted a pastoral letter on environmental protection, justice and development, entitled, “The universe, a gift of God for life”.
In the Andean nations, the cultivation of coca is restricted by law, as the leaves can also be processed into cocaine.
For some years now, however, President Evo Morales, who was previously one of the main leaders of the coca farmers, and who was re-elected in December 2009, has been advocating allowing coca farmers to further expand their cultivation.
His Government has repeatedly harshly rejected criticism from abroad as well as from the Church.
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