La Restinga and the Ecosocialism of the 21st Century

La Restinga Deforestación


When bulldozers started turning up at La Restinga National Park, the first to jump into action were students from ECAM, the Applied Marine Sciences Department (ECAM) of the Universidad de Oriente.

That didn’t surprise me. I’m an alumna of ECAM. Our school’s ethos was built on protecting La Restinga, the mangrove national park and ecological sanctuary that is a must when visiting Margarita Island.

La Restinga … it’s our baby.

I mean just look at the sight from the dock of the school…


Field trip anyone?

My school is located inside the park, in the designated “Special Use Zone of the Parks” (“Plan de Ordenamiento y Reglamento de Uso“). Ours has been a symbiotic, mutually dependent relationship from the start.

The coastal lagoon’s ecosystem is the perfect “lab,” the source of many of the samples the Marine Biology students need to study. Likewise, 80% of all the technical info on La Restinga has originated from our university. This is a vast amount of scientific data for the interest and wellbeing of the coastal lagoon ecosystem and its surrounding territory.

La Restinga is an important ecosystem for Nueva Esparta, Venezuela and the world. It is a RAMSAR site (wetland of international importance) and its function and services are of great value.

Which is why the sudden site of these bulldozers was so alarming.

It all started when the students began noticing a strange construction site: a bridge. After some prodding here and there, it became apparently clear that no public consultation was done on the project. Some of those involved didn’t even know that the construction was taking place inside National Park territory. So ECAM students and teacher formally requested a meeting with the key stakeholders, like the MINAMB, Inparques, and the mayor of Macanao.

Two months passed and not one word.

Finally, in April, they went directly to the construction site and demanded the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) from the supervisor of the construction. The people in charge awkwardly mumbled that they didn’t know who the supervisor was, that INPARQUES was responsible for the EIA, and that the Transport Ministry was the developer. A few days later, an article was published in the regional newspaper, denouncing the lack of an EIA and calling for answers. The Transport Ministry director for Nueva Esparta made a one-time appearance, claiming that no one had contacted his office or him with respect to the bridge’s EIA, and he dissapeared into the night.

Right now, we only know that the point of the bridge is to transport materials for a wind farm project in the Macanao Peninsula, west of the lagoon. The claim is that the old bridge is not fit a project of this magnitude. But two things are clear: one, that this is a  half-baked project, and two, that no EIA was done, although they say otherwise.

In spite of this, permits were signed and construction was allowed. They went ahead with it, violating any number of laws and codes like the “Plan de Ordenamiento y Reglamento de Uso de Laguna de La Restinga” (Land Use Plan for La Restinga), the Ley Penal del Ambiente (Environmental Penal Code), and even the Constitution (but she’s used to it by now). The consequences of these actions are fines and jail time for those involved, including political disbarment for those who signed the permits. But, you know how it goes…

I really want to emphasize that the students of ECAM are not against the bridge per se. Our biggest concern is the lagoon, a delicate ecosystem which has only one important water influx, the mouth of the lagoon. La Restinga appears to be undergoing a generalized sedimentation process, caused by the alteration of the hydrological dynamics, and leading to the hypersalinization of the lagoon. The ecosystem is already stressed.

And here’s another kick in the face, in the Park’s land use document, the area that has been trampled through … is actually the Zona de Recuperación Natural, an area designated for mangrove reforestation.

Do check this online interview with ECAM professor Edlin Guerra (only in Spanish guys) where he does a great job of explaining everything I’ve written here, and also gives his very grim opinion on what’s to come. Also, ECAM alumni have a timeline of the events in an article on Aporrea

Unfortunately, I concur with  Professor Guerra: it is highly unlikely that the construction will be stopped. The community, which in fact, are the only ones with any real leverage here, are not opposed to the bridge. Many are pro-goverment and will not defy this project. So the second bridge is a go, whether we like it or not. No matter how haphazard and utterly infuriating this project might be, there is little or nothing ECAM can do.

And if you want to know what hypocrisy looks like, go check out Inparque’s facebook page and read their latest status update. It’s a piece of art.

13 thoughts on “La Restinga and the Ecosocialism of the 21st Century

  1. “Unfortunately, I concur with Professor Guerra: it is highly unlikely that the construction will be stopped.”

    You MUST bring this to the attention of out-of-country ecological organizations. Faxes, emails, etc etc.
    Be aggressive about it.


    • LOL

      They all left long time ago. No one cares about Venezuela anymore, and the few NGOs that are standing still will not open their mouth. IF there is any serious NGO left in this country.
      Here are the possibilities: (a) Letter to Venezuela´s focal point to RAMSAR convention (Jesús Manzanilla) Director de la Oficina Nacional de Diversidad Biológica. He´s not the Director anymore; obviously the website has not been updated. The letter must be CC to the Convention Secretariat and the STRP (Scientific and Technical Review Panel) of the convention. Good idea to send the letter to several national newspapers; (b) The school could write an interdisciplinary paper where all the present problems, and those that will surface in the light of the construction of such structure, are very detailed and solutions are proposed. This paper can be published in a peer reviewed journal of high impact, something like Conservation Biology or Oryx. Despite the fact that this will not stop anything, the paper will bring attention to people related to RAMSAR and will sooner or later cause some concerns among the international community.
      It is also important to state on the letter (option a) that the site states that replanting of mangroves is on-going. Demanding that the factsheet is updated and problems should be included is a good way to start bringing in some attention to this issue.

      I hope this helps


  2. Fascinating place. Sad news. What they should build they can’t and what they can’t they build. This is not planning, much less eco friendly planning.


  3. Wonderfully well-written piece, thanks. I passed over the original bridge some 40 years ago to tour the Macanao Peninsula-the only car on the road at the time.


  4. Just wondering. How much wind is there to be captured? Is it a windy area? Given the record of Chavismo on infrastructure projects, I suspect there isn’t much wind where the wind energy project is located.

    In the US, there have been wind energy projects, especially in the northeast and midwest, located where there isn’t a lot of wind. The Great Plains, which have a lot of wind, would be an economically viable place to locate a wind energy project.


  5. Sounds like a scam.

    Some half-assed proposal for “green energy” which is being carried forward because money can be skimmed off, with a vaguely benevolent front.

    The other side is the collapse of the rule of law. Apparently someone can order this project carried out and the park administrators say nothing.

    A possible answer: get some people to show up guised as chavista officials and start giving orders and demanding files. Given the secretive and undocumented nature of this operation, and the probable low quality of the stooges performing it, someone in the right suit, with a peremptory manner, could jerk this gang around and maybe blow up the whole thing – perhaps force the real backers into the open.


  6. Guys,

    Why don’t you write to the following?

    1) Greenpeace
    2) The German Green Party (these are not copeyanos but the ecological party)
    Note: the German Green Party has people with different positions towards Chavismo but most already reject Chavismo. They understand English.


  7. I am afraid RedManglar international, which I hoped could have been an institution aligned with defending the La Resting ecosystem, has already been under too much influence from Chavista mentality and “approved” Chavista speak. As an short example a piece they published in their website:

    Declaración de Margarita sobre Cambio Climático PDF Imprimir E-mail
    Escrito por Redmanglar Internacional
    Martes, 22 de Julio de 2014 09:42
    Declaración de Margarita sobre Cambio Climático
    Reunión Preparatoria para la PreCOP Social,
    15 al 18 de Julio de 2014
    Isla de Margarita, Venezuela
    Cambiando el sistema, no el clima

    Nosotras y nosotros, mujeres y hombres representantes de los
    movimientos y organizaciones sociales reunidos en la isla de Margarita
    entre el 15 y el 18 de Julio de 2014, comprometidas y comprometidos
    con el buen vivir, en armonía con los ecosistemas de la tierra, como
    vía para combatir la crisis ambiental actual y el cambio climático, una
    de sus caras más feroces; preocupadas y preocupados por la
    largamente ignorada dimensión social de esta crisis pero llenas y
    llenos de esperanza y fe en los poderes creadores de los pueblos
    como motor necesario para lograr cambios sustanciales en el sistema;
    saludamos y damos la bienvenida a los procesos sociales que se
    viven y construyen desde diferentes países, comunidades y modelos
    de sociedad.

    Última actualización el Martes, 22 de Julio de 2014 11:07”

    My loose translation (the punctuation or lack thereof, copies the original. Other comments on the tralation are also in brackets):

    “Changing the System, not the Climate
    We (in feminine form) and we (in masculine form), women and men representing the social movements and organisations, met together in Margarita Island between the 15th and 18th of July, committed (again the redundant used of feminine and masculine forms) with the good living (sic), in harmony with the ecosystems of the earth (not clear if Earth as planet or earth as soil), as a way to combat the current environment crisis and climatic change, one of its more ferocious faces; worried (redundant used of feminine and masculine forms) by the largely ignored social dimension of this crisis but full (redundant use of feminine and masculine forms) of hope and faith in the creative powers of the people as the needed engine to achieve substantial changes in the system, we salute and welcome the social processes that are being lived and built from different countries, communities and society models.”

    My criticism centers in not mentioning of any threats to the ecosystem or rule of law and due process, while seemingly focusing on ignored social dimensions in a generic way with no shape or aim whatsoever.



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