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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Flooding here, flooding there. Bolivia 0 - Nature 1

The torrential thunderstorm that struck Santa Cruz last night brought more rain to this southeastern city than at anytime during the current rainy season. The Pirai River, which runs adjacent to sections of the city of more than one million inhabitants, has risen a reported 7.5 meters (approximately 23 feet), a historic event. But this event is overshadowed by weeks of steady rain and swollen, flooded rivers that have affected the north of the country near Brasil -- the worst flooding in many years. Towns and villages in the Beni Department have been swamped for many days, and the rivers remain dangerously over their banks.

Unfortunately, much as it does in other parts of the world, politics sometimes gets in the way of disaster relief and effective government and community action. Many people in the Beni do not trust the central government of Evo Morales. They have been asking for weeks for a formal declaration of emergency from the national government, but Morales and others fear that once that is done they will lose control over the distribution of resources, and such an act might empower NGOs (non-governmental organizations, ONG's in Spanish) from abroad, or opposition political figures, such as the governor of the region and others.  Even those collecting funds and food for the homeless and the "damnificados" reach out to 'neutral' actors. Signs in Santa Cruz, for example, urge donors not to give to the central government, but to the Rotary clubs in the area.

In Bolivia, there also is the longstanding lack of infrastructure, equipment and other resources. Paved roads, trucks, helicopters, airplanes all are in short supply in most developing nations.  The distances are immense, and the difficulties of reaching people and communities in need are enormous.

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