My timing could be better: Just as I have moved to Bolivia to find some peace and quiet, the Dakar Rally thunders and roars past.
The famous desert race, which has removed Paris from its name, still calls itself the Dakar Rally, although it went to the Senegalese capital for the last time in 2007. In 2009 the rally moved to South America.
Since the beginning of the year, the cars, motorcycles, trucks and quads have been racing through Argentina. From 7 January 2016, they will be in Bolivia for a few days to disturb and destroy the salt flat of Uyuni.
A few weeks after the world came together in Paris to agree on leaving behind fossil fuels, fuel is burnt and the air is polluted here, just for fun and sport. Any optimism one could have had after the Paris accord (I had none) volatilizes in the clouds of dust swirled up by the race.
The direct impact on the environment and on archaeological treasures isn’t any better. But Evo Morales, who plasters the whole country with posters explaining “Living in unison with nature means living a good life,” thinks that the Dakar Rally is good advertising for Bolivia. Apart from the fact that the salt flats of Uyuni are the last place in Bolivia that would need any promotion, the money would be better spent if a travel blogger would have his stay in Bolivia financed for a year and would regularly write about the country and the people. Coincidentally, I am available.
Instead, Bolivia allows the sports company ASO to dip into the public purse and even deploys the military for logistics and for securing the racetrack. A practical side effect of the army’s presence is to dissuade anyone who would have thought of staging a protest against this racket.
My main point of criticism about the Dakar Rally is that it is a murderous spectacle, literally. The deaths of drivers can still be booked under risks willingly taken. But in the 37 years of its existence, the Dakar Rally has taken 69 human lives in total. Among them were more journalists than have been killed by some terrorist organizations and several children, who tend to cross streets, particularly if nobody bothered to inform them that this deadly circus would pass through their village.
In accordance with tradition, this year’s race began with a driver mowing down a dozen spectators.
If I drove like that, I would (hopefully) have to stand trial. Not so in the case of the Dakar Rally, whose drivers apparently enjoy legal immunity.