Sovereignty Debate Surrounds Chilean Nature
By Gustavo González*
Politicians say the declaration of protection
for Pumalín Park, in southern Chile, is a violation of national
security. The park is the property of a U.S. millionaire.
SANTIAGO - Chilean
senators want to take the controversial decision of making the Pumalín
Park a nature reserve, property of U.S. millionaire Douglas Tompkins,
to the National Security Council (COSENA), saying it is a sovereignty
issue. But environmentalists say the protection declaration is an
park, situated in the southern province of Palena, in Chile's famed
Lakes Region, is the result of seven years of negotiations between
Tompkins and Chilean authorities.
The process culminated
Dec. 9 with the tycoon and President Ricardo Lagos putting their
signatures to an agreement.
The 200,000 hectares
of native temperate rainforest are safe from exploitation by logging
companies. It is a nature preserve that will be managed by a non-profit
foundation in which Tompkins and Chilean entities will participate.
But 28 of Chile's
47 senators, including four from the co-governing Christian Democrat
Party, believe the new status of these lands would prevent the construction
of roads and other projects considered indispensable for the development
and integration of the area with the rest of the country.
They asked that
the agreement be submitted to COSENA, a body created by the Augusto
Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) and is headed by the president,
with the participation of the commanders of the armed forces and
of four civilian officials.
into the matter is problematic because it is one of the objectionable
legacies of the dictatorship, agree activists Sara Larraín,
head of Sustainable Chile, Manuel Baquedano, president of the Instituto
de Ecología Política, and Gonzalo Villarino, executive
director of Greenpeace-Chile.
The three, consulted
by Tierramérica, pointed to the inconsistency of the Christian
Democrat senators, whose party has long advocated eliminating COSENA,
and they applauded the fact that President Lagos, of the Socialist
Party, has refused the lawmakers' request.
Larraín, senator of the right-wing Independent Democratic
Union party, told Tierramérica that the 28 legislators represent
"a vast majority" that believes COSENA's intervention
is necessary "because the park agreement creates many concerns
with respect to the limitations of Chilean sovereignty."
alludes to equality under the law, given that "special treatment
is being given a foreigner." It is up to the state "to
determine the occupation of the territory and the preservation of
sectors whose characteristics contribute to improving the environment,"
said the senator.
doubts about the effect of the declaration of a nature sanctuary
and the restrictions it could mean as far as developing infrastructure
for communications, services and roads, and as far as resolutions
by national courts on expropriation for the necessities of the common
good," Christian Democrat senator Jorge Pizarro, said in a
conversation with Tierramérica.
security means protecting our natural resources, there is no contradiction
in what Tompkins is doing," says Jenia Jofré, president
of the National Committee Pro Defense of Fauna and Flora.
Raúl Sohr, an expert in defense issues, "The idea that
sovereignty is lost is absurd. There is no loss of sovereignty in
any territory of the country that is acquired by an individual."
is the desire to build a road, the same expropriation laws will
be applied that are applied in the rest of the country," he
stressed that both the president of the Senate, Christian Democrat
Andrés Zaldívar, and commander of the army Luis Emilio
Cheyre, say it is not appropriate in this case to convene COSENA,
of which they are both members.
It is stipulated
in the agreement that land would be set aside for building roads,
she said. The foreign investments Tompkins has brought to Chile
are the only ones aimed at preserving forests instead of exploiting
them, added the activist.
and the environmentalists believe the political reaction against
Tompkins is due to his ecological stance.
never mentioned national security when foreign investments were
made to exploit natural resources, which they instead see as "a
factor for national development," they said.
"In 30 years,
the areas that are being preserved will be of incalculable value
in terms of ecosystems. The activities to be carried out there are
friendly to the environment, such as ecotourism," said Baquedano.
issue is the lack of vision of those (who are opposed to the nature
sanctuary), who think of the country in the short term, and not
in the long term," added the head of the Instituto de Ecología
meanwhile, denies there is a double standard that favors exploitation
of resources while discriminating against Tompkins for his conservationist
position, though he does criticize the millionaire for his support
of what is known as "deep ecology".
serious concerns about deep ecology, because it is an extreme position
in environmentalist thought, and in the end seeks the depopulation
of the territory," says the senator.
said as a caricature, deep ecology prefers trees over people. But
we believe people are more important than trees. Nature should be
at the service of man, not the reverse," concludes the right-wing
* Gustavo González
is an IPS correspondent.
Gondwana Forest Sanctuary
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