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Environmental outlook in Latin America after the 2021 elections

Person lifting a plastic bottle on a beach

Latin America is going through an environmental crisis marked by pollution, illegal logging and mining, drought and desertification in various areas of the region. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Daniel Vargas Bozzetto

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The region faces a set of environmental problems that require an immediate and effective response from future presidents of government .

Millions of Latin Americans will decide in 2021 who will be their next presidents during, not only of a socio-sanitary and economic crisis, but of an environmental crisis marked by pollution, logging and illegal mining, drought and desertification in various areas of the region. Five are the countries that will open the polls in 2021.

Ecuador

The last elections on February 7 left Andrés Arauz as the partial winner, who will face in a second round the indigenous leader Yaku Pérez or the conservative Guillermo Lasso , both tied by a few tenths in the results.

One of the most serious environmental problems in Ecuador is the phenomenon of illegal mining, which causes a large part of the contamination of rivers and sources . During the campaign, Arauz promised "a firm hand and control over mining, both large-scale and polluting, which will be regulated again."

For his part, the candidate Yaku Pérez speaks of “reverting to the State all large-scale mining concessions” and placing the responsibility of decontaminating water sources and productive lands on national and transnational mining companies . Likewise, it would convene a popular consultation for Ecuadorians to decide whether or not to continue metal mining.

In the antipodes of Pérez's position is Guillermo Lasso, in whose government plan he argues that "Ecuador cannot afford to keep its oil and mining resources underground", but must take advantage of them "with environmental responsibility."

Chile

Under the name of Recycle the Policy and with the slogan "we must have an ecological constitution in Chile", a multidisciplinary group of professionals has drawn up a decalogue with the "minimum issues to be agreed upon" during the constituent process that began on February 25. October with the plebiscite for a new constitution and which will continue on April 11 with the conventional constituent elections.

The right to environmental justice, to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, and access to water are some of the demands of the decalogue, which also indicates the duty of the state and of all people to protect biodiversity. So far there have been 55 constituent candidates who have committed to the initiative .

WWF Chile and Greenpeace have also expressed the need to draft the future constitution within an ecological framework that is the substrate in which policies capable of facing the serious environmental problems that the country suffers, such as the severe water crisis, can bear fruit. , one of the most pressing . According to Greenpeace data, 76% of Chile is affected by drought, desertification or degraded soil and 70% of the population is experiencing a situation of water scarcity.

Peru

Also on April 11, the presidential elections will be held in Peru, a country that has suffered, for years, the illegal logging of forests that constitute the fourth largest forest area in the world with 68 million hectares , a weapon of inestimable value against the climate change.

To put an end to the logging phenomenon, candidate George Forsyth - recently disqualified as such by the Lima Special Electoral Jury - spoke of involving the Special Prosecutor for Environmental Crimes and of reforesting 1 million hectares with native species .

Meanwhile, the candidate Keiko Fujimori speaks of a reforestation of agricultural areas and urban expansion through a massive program of seedbeds and forest nurseries . Her government would also promote eco-friendly transport and encourage the development of river transport that saves fuel .

Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan elections, scheduled for November 7, will be held with the latent memory of the repression of the 2018 protests, which resulted in more than 300 deaths .

Little more than a year after them, Daniel Ortega recalled that his government had with Nicaragua " the commitment to make the interoceanic canal a reality ." Five years after having awarded a Chinese company the megaproject that, to this day, is still not carried out, the president said that environmental studies were being prepared again to be able to carry it out . The canal route would cross Lake Cocibolca, the largest source of fresh water in Central America, something that at the time sparked protests from environmentalists and peasants.

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And it is that, according to Ecologists in Action , the very process of construction of the canal and the oil spills that the ships could cause "a very strong damage to the quality of the water and its distribution, all this in a country with problems of water scarcity" . In addition, the work would affect the ecosystems of at least 22 vulnerable and endangered species .

Honduras

Honduras will hold its elections on November 28. Last October, the environmental organization Sachamama published a list of the 100 Latinos most committed to climate action . Among them was Nasry Asfura , vice president of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) , current mayor of Tegucigalpa and candidate for the presidency of the country that, according to Global Witness , is the most dangerous in the world for the environmental activism .

An investigation carried out by said organization, from 2010 to 2017, assures that more than 120 people were killed by state forces, security guards or hired killers . His crime: opposing dams, mines or logging. Hypothetically, the choice of Asfura could remedy this reality.

On the other hand, among the Liberal Party candidates, Yani Rosenthal stands out, a former deputy sentenced in 2017 to three years in prison for laundering money from drug trafficking . In 2015, the Continental Group, belonging to the Rosenthal family, starved some 200 crocodiles from a farm they owned, according to the EFE agency .