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Dakar Rally blamed for damaging Chile's historic sites

1.90K   //    15 Jan 2014, 14:30 IST

Santiago, Jan 15 (IANS) Allowing the Dakar Rally off-road race to cross Chile’s northern Atacama Desert has damaged area archaeological sites, leading archaeologists and activists have said.

The director of the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, archaeologist Carlos Aldunate, along with several non-governmental organisations (NGO), Tuesday denounced the damage from the racing trucks, cars, motorcycles and quads as “scandalous”, reports Xinhua.

“I find this to be scandalous for Chile,” said Aldunate, dismissing official claims that most Chileans welcomed the race.

Aldunate said he doubted most citizens “are so happy (to host) an event that has caused a lot of damage to archaeological heritage and continues to do so.”

“These motorcycles have run over the geoglyphs. They have run over archaeological remnants (such as) pathways and pre-Hispanic trails that all of us archaeologists are studying and feel very proud of,” said Aldunate.

“All of these ancient vestiges are endangered. Bolivian and Argentine archaeologists have said the same thing. We are truly concerned by this,” he said.

The rally entered Chile Monday, after making its way through parts of Argentina and Bolivia.

Gabriel Ruiz-Tagle, Chile’s sports minister, defended hosting the event, saying it “is the only sporting competition that has exhaustive control (of environmental damage) compared with other competitions”.

Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) threw out an injunction seeking to prevent the 2014 Dakar Rally from taking place in Chile on the grounds that it could damage cultural monuments and the ecosystem.

The race, originally known as the Paris to Dakar Rally, used to cross the European countryside before arriving in North Africa, but the route was changed, perhaps in part due to the considerably greater power that conservation groups wield in Europe.

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