September 19, 2019
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Morales accepts int'l help to put out wildfires in Bolivia

La Paz, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Bolivian President Evo Morales said Sunday that any international help to put out the wildfires in the country's eastern Chiquitania region "is welcome," after the fires regained strength in that area.

"The cooperation is welcome, whether from international entities, or individuals, as well as presidents, since it expresses appropriate cooperation," Morales said at a press conference in the central Cochabamba region.

The president said that the Bolivian Foreign and Defense Ministries are in charge of determine what "cooperation can be the quickest."

He also expressed his gratitude to the presidents of Chile, Sebastian Piñera; Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benitez; and to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who spoke with him by telephone to express their solidarity and their intention to cooperate.

Morales emphasized the help of the CAF-Latin American Development Bank, which is donating "about half a million dollars" to deal with the fires.

Morales also announced that Argentina and Peru are ready to provide help.

He said that he received a message from the French Foreign Ministry proposing to strike an "alliance to take care of the biodiversity throughout South America's Amazon region," a proposal that he said La Paz will analyze.

According to the Bolivian leader, 2,000 soldiers, 450 police officers and four helicopters are working in the area affected by the fires, and three firefighting airplanes will be hired to operate in the zone.

He said that the Bolivian government will build housing for the 10 families known to have lost their homes in the fires.

Authorities on Saturday delivered 1,600 rolls of forage for cattle and are preparing 10,000 additional rolls of fodder for the animals that are being held at three locations, Morales said.

He warned that the fires "are going to keep cropping up" since it has not rained in the area for two months and the zone if very dry.

He also said that he will suspend his election campaign for a week - the elections are in October - with an eye toward focusing his attention on the fires that began three weeks ago.

The government of Santa Cruz province, where Chiquitania is located, asked the national government to accept the international aid to help put out the fires, reporting that already at least one million hectares (2.5 million acres) have been affected.

The fires revived despite the work accomplished by a Supertanker cistern aircraft hired by the Bolivian government, which on Saturday undertook four flights to dump water on fire zones in different parts of Chiquitania, all of which were deemed successful by La Paz authorities.

Morales had told the media last Monday that international aid was not required to put out the fires because the country was prepared to deal with such situations.

He also called for an urgent meeting of the foreign ministers of countries belonging to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization to discuss how to deal with the fires and preserve the Amazon region.

Chiquitania, a region of tropical savannahs, is a transition zone between the Amazon region and the Chaco, and is one of Bolivia's main tourist zones featuring Jesuit missions that have been declared World Heritage Sites.

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