BOLIVIA TRAVEL ALERTS - AUGUST 2010

There are numerous events taking place in Bolivia that tourists and travelers should be aware of and some places you may wish to consider avoiding altogether.


1. Forest fires. There are over 25,000 hot spots (fires) burning in different regions of the country from north of La Paz, to Cochabamba, and in Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz. Numerous cities are presenting unhealthy levels of air pollution and flights have been suspended in many cities. Until these fires can be controlled, expect the unexpected in terms of flights being suspended, cancelled or delayed. Also be aware of which cities are affected to see if it will cause any changes in your travel plans.
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23 August UPDATE: Despite the national emergency, rural farmers CONTINUE to light forest fires to clear land. To date there are 34,000 fires burning and over 2 MILLION HECTARES of forest have been lost. Authorities have admitted they are out of control. They do not have the resources to fight this many fires. 8 of Bolivia's 9 states are under a thick layer of smoke and 30 of the nation's 34 airports are opening and closing unpredictably as the winds shift. The only department not affected by the smoke and fires is Oruro at this time. The air quality index is above 160 (very highly contaminated) in some areas such as Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando, and authorities have advised everyone to stay in doors as much as possible, not practice any sports outside, and wear face masks when outdoors. President Morales requested help from Brazil and Argentina (firefighting aircraft) a week ago but so far responses have not been forthcoming.
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2. Wednesday 18 August - the US Embassy in La Paz has issued this warden message regarding possible upcoming protests and road blocks in the Oruro area next week, which may extend to other cities and regions.
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23 August UPDATE: President Evo Morales met with Oruro authorities and promised to build an international airport for Oruro. Therefore, for the moment protests have been called off.
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3. Friday 20 August - Bolivia's roughly 1.7 million market vendors, and sellers of imported goods that might be considered contraband, are angry at changes the government has made to the Customs Law which will tighten restrictions on the importation of contraband and smuggled goods. They are threatening to protest by blocking roads around the nation and closing all markets on Friday if the government doesn't meet their demands to adjust some of the new changes made. The government is taking a very solid stance against contraband. If they should choose to protest and block roads, it would be difficult to know how long this could last.
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23 August UPDATE: President Evo Morales has a trip to South Korea scheduled. Therefore, this segment of the population has agreed to wait until he returns.
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4. Thursday 12 August - The US State Department issued this travel alert regarding the protests and road blocks that took place over a border dispute between Potosí and Oruro (which ended a few days later). However, given the above potential for more unrest in Oruro, and possibly elsewhere, this travel alert remains in place until 12 November
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23 August UPDATE: At this time roads are open and tours are taking place. However, the agreement between President Morales and Oruro yesterday has caused Potosinos to get angry. They protested 19 days demanding an airport and requesting Morales meet with them personally but he didn't. Oruro warned it would protest and he went to Oruro personally and attended to Oruro's demands immediately. So Potosino's are angry and accusing him of being unfair and favoring one state over the other. Tension continues.
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5. November 10 - In related news, although Potosí civic protesters have halted their protests, they declared president Evo Morales unwelcome in Potosí on November 10 when they celebrate their departmental festivities. There is the potential for tension to flare up between them and the president's supporters in Potosí if he should choose to visit the region on and around November 10th.
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23 August UPDATE: Considering yesterday's agreement with Oruro, November 10th may not be a good date to visit Potosí.
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BACKGROUND

Protests and road blocks in the Potosi and Uyuni area ended in several agreements between protesters and the government. During this time several hundred tourists were stranded in the Potosi area for 18 days. Bolivian airline Aerosur was offering solidarity flights (and flew 3500 kilos of provisions to the area) and free flights to those with urgent medical conditions and tourists needing to leave the area.

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