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Story Publication logo April 8, 2020

Bolsonaro's Highway Could Destroy the Largest Tropical Forest Reserve in the World (Spanish)

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Image by the Pulitzer Center. 2020.
English

Conceived in the late 1960s during the military regime, the Baron of Rio Branco project is now being...

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Toll payment point on a BR-163 highway in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image by rafapress / Shutterstock. Brazil, undated.
Toll payment point on a BR-163 highway in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image by rafapress / Shutterstock. Brazil, undated.

Bolsonaro's government wants to build and open a highway that traverses the largest protected area of tropical forest in the world—an area larger than the size of the United Kingdom.

The plan has existed since a military dictatorship that governed Brazil between 1964 and 1985, and has been let out of the box by the president, a retired captain who surrounded himself by military leadership. The idea is to extend the BR163 highway by a few thousand kilometers through the Calha Norte, a vast area of forest situated between the Amazon River and the border with Suriname. The highway already connects the soy-producing regions in Southern Brazil with river ports in Miritituba and Santarém.

The plan is called Baron of Rio Branco in honor of the diplomat who, at the end of the 19th century, became a national hero by successfully negotiating Brazil's national boundaries with neighboring countries. By the 1970s, when the project was conceived, and in 2019, when Bolsonaro came to power, the project is lacking in economic justification. And if the history of the BR163 highway is considered, the construction of the new highway will result in social and environmental catastrophes.

To read the full story in Spanish, visit Open Democracy.

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