Bolivian bishops protest highway through lowlands

August 29, 2011

Bolivia's bishops expressed their support for indigenous people marching from the country's northern Amazonian lowlands to the mountain city of La Paz to protest a planned highway through their territory.

About 800 demonstrators set out on foot to express their opposition to the road from the northern Beni department to the central Cochabamba region; it will cut through the Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory.

In a statement issued Aug. 15, the bishops urged the government to meet with the protesters.

They also urged "the Catholic faithful and people of good will" along the protesters' route to "offer the timely humanitarian aid that these brothers will certainly need in food, supplies, lodging and medicine."

The highway construction, to be financed mainly by Brazilian companies, would cut through a sensitive national park that is already threatened by illegal logging and encroaching agriculture.

Indigenous people living in the area worry about the impact of the highway on their environment and lifestyle.

People along other parts of the route support the plan, however, saying it will cut travel time and make it easier to get their products to market.