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Bioceanic Rail Project Advances in South America; Brazil Attends Planning Conference for First Time

March 23, 2017 (EIRNS)—The March 21-22 conference in Bolivia held to advance plans for the Central Bioceanic Rail Corridor (CFBC), extending from Peru to Brazil through Bolivia, concluded yesterday with an upbeat speech by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who said that the project will help to combat poverty, will benefit half of South America directly or indirectly, and "guarantee the future of new generations."

Attending the meeting were ministerial-level representatives from Germany, France and Switzerland, from the European side, and Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia—and for the first time, Brazil. Joao Carlos Parkinson de Castro, head of South American Economic Affairs at Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, was warmly welcomed by Bolivian Public Works Minister Milton Claros, who said that Brazil’s participation signalled that the project was now really "up and running." Because of political upheaval in Brazil over the past many months, official government participation in the CFBC has been a question mark, although the governors of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso du Sul are enthusiastic supporters.

Parkinson, however, stated that Brazil

"has the will [to participate] in this collective effort to reach Asian markets and take advantage of the rail line that goes to [the Brazilian city of] Corumbá"

on the border with Bolivia, from the Atlantic port of Santos. Brazil, Parkinson added, is prepared to participate in working groups, and is anxious to make "specific contributions to each one of them." According to the Bolivian daily Los Tiempos, he stressed the need to "improve the region’s physical infrastructure to empower the nations of the region."

One specific result of the meeting was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Rainer Bomba, Germany’s Deputy Minister of Transportation and Digital Infrastructure and Bolivian Minister Milton Claros, to move forward with technical and design studies. Bomba has worked closely with the Bolivians for well over a year on the CFBC, and reports there are many German and Swiss companies interested in building it. Not settled is the issue of financing. Although China’s ambassador to Bolivia announced last December that his government could offer "up to" $40 billion—the project will cost an estimated $14 billion—there has been no further discussion of that offer, and other options are being examined.