Other country, same critics. Like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Bolivian President Evo Morales is the target of anger from environmentalists. The latter make its agricultural policy responsible for the fires that have already devastated nearly a million hectares in the east of the country.

Pressured by local environmental organizations, the left-wing leader finally accepted on Sunday offers of help from several countries in the region and Spain to fight the uncontrolled fires that have ravaged the Bolivian Pantanal for several weeks. ), on the borders of Brazil and Paraguay.

Evo Morales has also announced the temporary suspension of his election campaign, while he seeks at the end of October a disputed fourth term. According to official figures, 950,000 hectares have been ravaged by the flames in the east of the country since May, with a very strong upsurge since mid-August.

Slash and burn culture criticized

At the heart of the critics of environmental organizations, the "eacho" practice of slash and burn culture widespread and openly encouraged, according to them, by the government that supports the extension of intensive agricultural activities.

"We are talking about a state policy agreed with the business sector of eastern Bolivia to extend the border (...) to intensive agriculture, genetically modified soybeans, sugar cane plantations and the empowerment of pastures for cattle breeding ", denounces Leonardo Tamburini, director of the NGO Cejis.

Environmentalists point to a 2016 law that expands authorized deforestation areas from 5 hectares to 20 hectares and a July decree that allows fires under control to deforest.

"Fires are caused by drought"

Leonardo Tamburini notes that the government of Evo Morales goes against what has long represented the Bolivian head of state: an Indian Aymara, great defender of nature and one of the promoters of the "Universal Declaration of Rights" of Mother Earth ", established at the initiative of the Amerindian peoples who campaign for its adoption by the United Nations Assembly.

"The government has lost track of the philosophical and ideological principles that brought it to power in 2006 and is now based on an extractivist development model of" massive exploitation of natural resources, "he says.

In recent years, Bolivia has increased international investment agreements, particularly with China, for the exploitation of natural gas and especially lithium, which it hopes to be the fourth largest producer in the world by 2021.

Environmental organizations also denounce minimizing the consequences of fires. The Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN) accuses the government of not taking into account in the official figures the situation in the other Amazonian department of Beni (north).

"The area burned by August 20 is about 1.5 million hectares nationwide," said the organization.

At a time when the Brazilian far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, climate-skeptical, is under international pressure for his management of fires in the Brazilian Amazon, the government of Evo Morales calls drought as the main cause of fires.

President Morales, re-elected in 2009 and again in 2014, who obtained from the Constitutional Court the opportunity to present himself without any mandate, also responded to critics: "There are floods, it's Evo's fault Morales, there is drought, it is the fault of Evo Morales, there are fires, it is the fault of Evo Morales ".

With AFP