portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

actions & protests | alternative media

Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict: Indigenous Peoples Denounce Legal Persecution

TIPNIS Conflict
*Marielle Cauthin is * former employee at the Ministry of Education under
President Morales and whose father was exiled to Sweden under Bolivia's
dictatorship for his participation in youth activism,
*Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict: Indigenous Peoples Denounce Legal Persecution

 link to upsidedownworld.org

Writtenby Marielle Cauthin, Translated by April Howard

Friday, 23 March 2012

Six indigenous women leaders and the founder of the
Permanent Assembly on Human Rights in Bolivia (APDHB), in addition to 17
other main leaders, representatives and defenders of indigenous rights are
forming part of the judicial investigation of the crime of "attempted
homicide and serious and minor injuries" of Secretary of State David
Choquehuanca, in a report presented to the ministers of Justice and
Government of Bolivia.

Between August and October of 2011, hundreds of indigenous men, women and
children from the high and lowlands of Bolivia, marched for 65 days as a
way of protesting against the proposed highway which, at a length of 300
kilometers (186.4 miles), planned to cross the center of the Isiboro Ségure
Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), to unite the provinces of
Cochabamba and Beni. The project is being promoted by the Bolivian
Government, financed by the Brazilian Government and constructed by the
Brazilian contractors OAS, with a cost of 415 million dollars. The
Yuracaré, Moxeño and Chimán indigenous communities, who own the tropical
territory, fought the project, arguing that the double designation of the
land as both a park and a Community Land of Origen (TCO) protects the area
from megaprojects. They also appealed for the recognition of their
constitutional and international rights to a preliminary consultation and
the right to approve or reject the proposed highway.* *

*Threats to the Indigenous Movement*

[image: Tipnis march]"We have received that news as a threat to the
indigenous communities," said Fernando Vargas, the president of the TIPNIS
Union, referring to the subpoenas served to 26 people for giving their
reports on crimes against humanity committed by the Secretary of State.

In the same way, various organizations like the Beni Union of Moxeño Ethnic
Communities (CPEM - B) reported the control, influence and biasing of the
judicial process toward the executive branch in order to intimidate and
politically persecute indigenous men and women leaders and people
supporting the indigenous march and defense of the TIPNIS. The Union has
also maintained that the accusations and reports in the subpoenas are false
and forced and that the Secretary of State should have publically clarified
the actual events.

The indigenous organizations maintain that it is in this way that the
Government seeks to paralyze the new actions that could occur to protest
against the Previous Consultation Law 222 that the Government proposed in
February in order to invalidate the Protection of the TIPNIS Law 180,
achieved by the Eighth March. With this law of exclusive consultation for
the TIPNIS, the indigenous communities have reported that the Government is
seeking to reopen the possibility of imposing the highway project though a
malintentioned process.

*The Supposed Attempted Homicide*

[image: Tipnis madre]In September of 2011, in an attempt to prevent the
march from continuing to the government palace, colonizing farmers and a
strong contingent of police stopped the marchers in the Beni, in San Miguel
de Chaparina, for approximately a week, surrounding them and depriving them
of humanitarian aid, water, medicine and foods, as reported by the marchers
themselves, human rights groups and NGOs.

In these circumstances, on September 24, the Secretary of State arrived in
the area without a positive response to the marchers' demands, but rather
to affirm the presidential position of carrying out the project. Faced with
this, the approximately 400 women marchers reacted to this uncertain
situation, which even compromised the health of the 250 boys and girls
accompanying their families in the march, and surrounded the Secretary of
State, urging him to join the march and cross the political siege. The
leader of the National Union of Andean Indigenous Councils (Consejo
Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu, CONAMAQ), Rafael Quispe,
recounted that in the process of dialogue, "the Secretary of State said
that the colonizers [farmers] should be there, and we said 'no,' because
the State needs to attend to the demands of the marchers; then he said that
he was going to tell them to unblock the San Lorenzo Bridge. We said that
it's been more than 40 days of marching and that we were going to continue,
at that time he very clearly indicated 'then I will accompany the march,"
he said.

Exministers Sacha Llorenti and Nilda Copa presented a case to the Public
Ministry denouncing the supposed "kidnapping" of the Secretary of State,
while the Secretary reported to the national and international media: "the
women had surrounded me and there had already been problems. There had been
some threats and they had forced me, they made me walk." These reports had
not mentioned at any time that there was a "kidnapping," nor "hostages," as
other government sources claimed.

*Violent Repression of Indigenous Men and Women*

Without warning and while the marchers were resting, a day later, the
afternoon of September 25, the operation to repress and disperse the march
started. A contingent of approximately 600 police surrounded the indigenous
marchers, gassed the field that the occupied and violently subdued them and
forced them to board a caravan of busses and trucks. The rest fled deep
into the forest. In the chaos of suffocation and blows against men and
women, many were handcuffed and gagged with adhesive tape, above all the
powerless movement leaders who couldn't fight back.

[image: Tipnis ninos reprimidos]Yolanda Herrera, president of the APDHB,
reported that on the day of the state repression at least 54 people with
serious injuries were reported, of those, three men had "feet destroyed by
beating, in addition to wounds on their ribs and heads." Nazareth Flores,
vice president of the Beni Union of Indigenous Communities (CPIB),
testified: "At the end they tied my hands and threw me in a truck. Later
they took me out and they put me in a bus. In the busses I saw various
gagged friends. But all this action of the police didn't stop us."

In response to this, Yoriko Yasukawa, resident coordination of the United
Nations in Bolivia declared "I remind the authorities, at all levels, that
their first responsibility is to stop this violence and to respect the
rights of the people, the dignity of the indigenous marchers." Even though
there were charges brought and legal investigations made to clarify this
violation of human rights and these acts of kidnapping, torture, physical
and verbal aggression against the marchers, the investigations haven't gone
well and the Government has persisted in exonerating the authorities from
guilt for this event, alluding that the order to attack didn't come from
the presidential palace.

Update #TIPNIS < http://twitter.com/search?q=%23TIPNIS> road controversy:
#bolivia < http://twitter.com/search?q=%23bolivia> Gov say will do
consultation. Preparations continue for 2nd march

*22 March 2012 Update:*

The indigenous movement CIDOB < http://www.cidob-bo.org/>(Confederation of
Bolivian Indigenous Peoples - representing 34 nations mainly from the
Amazon and Chaco regions) has announced it will hold a plenary
meeting< link to www.laestrelladeloriente.com.bo
25 and 26 March 2012 to decide where the second march against the
road project will leave from. At this meeting the main demands of the march
(as well as rejecting any road through the TIPNIS) will be decided on. The
content of these demands will be crucial to determine if this second march
will receive as much support from urban areas and other movements as the
first march between August and October last year. We have to wait until
next Monday to have more clarity on this but for the moment the Trade
Unions Congress
(COB< http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-03-21/Nacional/Destacados/4Nac02-210312.aspx>)
has said it will back the march.

The Bolivian government insist they will still do the prior consultation
inside the TIPNIS< link to www.la-razon.com
the road in the middle of May. According to the government conducting
the prior consultation process is in line with the Bolivian Constitution
and international agreements. The TIPNIS indigenous leaders who are opposed
to the road say a consultation will not be prior because the road is
already being built and a contract was signed with the Brazilian company
OAS in 2008.



*TIPNIS developments and consultation

The MAS government has passed legislation to guarantee a consultation on
proposals for the construction of a road through the Isiboro-Sécure
National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). The new law is an attempt
to make amends for a previous lack of consultation with indigenous
communities over the project, but stands at odds with recent legislation
which cancelled the construction of the road (the *ley corta*) and declared
the area 'intangible'. The new consultation law marks the latest
development in a conflict that has seen different social movements make
competing demands on the government (see previous BIF News
Briefing< http://www.boliviainfoforum.org.uk/news-detail.asp?id=101#conisur>,
amongst others).

The consultation, which must be completed within 120 days, will cover three
main themes: whether the TIPNIS should remain 'untouchable'; whether the
proposed road through the area should be constructed; and what measures
should be taken to prevent illegal settlements in the TIPNIS. Senate
President Gabriela Montaño has said that the consultation is the only
democratic way to make progress in the dispute. However, major issues
remain over the law, including the crucial question of who will be
consulted. *The CONISUR group representing settlers and indigenous people
from the south of the park, who are in favour of the road and worked with
the government on the drafting of the law, may not have the right to take
part in the consultation, as they are not part of the collective land
title. Indigenous groups have also said that the law violates the
constitution because the law is not 'prior'.
In response to the legislation, indigenous leaders of the Confederación de
Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente Boliviano (CIDOB) have said they will march
in defence of the TIPNIS and physically prevent the consultation taking
place. Together with the TIPNIS indigenous organisation, the CIDOB headed
last year's march that led to the passage of the *ley corta*. It argues
that 32 out of 35 communities in TIPNIS are opposed to the construction of
the road, which would link Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos. Despite
this apparent support for CIDOB's position, there is concern amongst the
TIPNIS leaders about the ability of the government to carry out a
consultation without bias. Moreover, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has
said it currently lacks the funds to undertake and monitor the

In further recent developments, Bolivia's trade union confederation, the
Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), has pledged to support any mobilisation by
CIDOB, which will meet in mid-March to discuss when the new march towards
La Paz should take place.