Indigenous leaders attending the climate change meeting in Madrid took to the stage to insist the “Hidrovia won’t pass”. A decision to go ahead with this final component of a controversial mega programme could come as soon as April 2020, two decades after Brazil and Peru launched the IIRSA (regional integration of South American infrastructure) scheme. Two trans-Amazonian and inter-oceanic highways have been constructed at immense cost, amid massive corruption and extensive environmental damage but little by way of return on investment. The fear is that the Hidrovia scheme, backed up with little in the way of technical research, will inflict serious harm to the Amazon waterways and the livelihoods of the population living along them.

Following La República’s damaging exposé last week of the background to the rigged bidding process for the Hidrovia, has followed up with revelations of very favourable financial provisions for the 20 year duration of the concession, including a tax rate pegged at only 5% and remission of profits free of official monitoring. The companies concerned are Chinese and an Ecuadorian affiliate, both with questionable antecedents.