Context to Bolivian Repression
When the Bolivian government overturned the law outlawing the construction of a road that was signed at the end of the first march to protect the TIPNIS by signing into law a “prior” consultation with indigenous communities (despite having signed contracts for the construction of the road in 2008) the main indigenous organizations of both the lowlands and highlands decided to march again, starting at the end of April (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/ultimas_noticias/2012/04/120427_ultnot_bolivia_tipnis_carretera_evo_fp.shtml). They have now marched peacefully more than 600km from the Amazon to the Andes in 62 days, enduring great hardship and vulnerability, provoking serious health problems which eventually to led to the death of a baby on arrival in La Paz (http://www.lostiempos.com/diario/actualidad/economia/20120629/de-luto-por-una-bebe-dejan-acciones-para-hoy_176718_372949.html).
Pro-government groups sought to undermine the march from the outset, by blocking the routes to the planned starting point (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/ultimas_noticias/2012/04/120426_ultnot_marcha_indigenas_bolivia_bd.shtml ), and then threatening the march and preventing access to water and other provisions in specific locations along the route.
Despite these adverse conditions, the march arrived in La Paz on Wednesday 27th June and again received great support from the population of La Paz. However, the government is doing everything it can to undermine the credibility of the march and divide and weaken the movement. Specifically it has done the following:
- Accused the march of plotting a coup d’etat before it arrived in La Paz. (http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-07-03/Nacional/Destacados/5Nac00303-04.aspx http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-06-25/Nacional/Destacados/Tipnis-rechaza-golpe.aspx)
- Did not provide fair conditions for dialogue in good faith during the march and continuing up until now.
- Promoted conflict with pro-government mobilisations, creating high risk of physical confrontations (http://www.plataformaenergetica.org/content/3376)
- Criminalized leaders and activists, for example by jailing two young people from the environmentalist anarchist movement who had a strong presence in the mobilizations around the first march. (http://www.bolpress.com/art.php?Cod=2012053101)
- Accused the leaders of the march of being connected to narcotraffic and being funded by opposition political parties. (http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-07-03/Nacional/Destacados/5Nac00303-04.aspx)
- On Saturday 30th June signed an agreement with a false leader of one regional indigenous organization and under this agreement offered marchers $150 and the air fare to return to their communities. (http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483960678)
- On Tuesday 3rd July signed an agreement with 45 community authorities, of which only 18 are from the TIPNIS and the rest are from a coca-growing area outside the TIPNIS boundaries. (http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483960837)
- Bribed communities to accept the consultation by giving them motors and telecommunications equipment.
Through these tactics the government is weakening support for the movement and clearly aiming to exhaust the marchers in order to avoid effective dialogue for long enough to get to the start date of the “prior” consultation, scheduled for 29 July. We are now at a tipping point because the march has not achieved open dialogue with the government despite having been in La Paz for one week, and if nothing happens before that date then it will become impossible to stop the project. Considering the Bolivian government’s good relationship with grassroots and activist movements, an urgent international outcry against this illegitimate consultation process could make the difference and tip the balance in favour of the indigenous peoples’ demands.
By updating and re-launching this petition, we can show Evo Morales that the world wants him to “walk the talk” after being named “Defender of Mother Earth” in 2009. This is not simply an internal political issue: the protection of the Amazon rainforest is vital for the future of our planet and if this project is allowed to go ahead then it will set the pace for others to follow. Equally, the illegitimate “prior” consultation violates the article 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that sets out: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”