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Bolivia: TIPNIS Protesters Launch National March

Seek Indigenous-Urban
TIPNIS Highway Will Deforest 1,482,000 Acres of Amazon Rainforest
on Mar 29 |
The Strategic Research Program (PIEB) has released a study showing that, if
a highway is built through the Isiboro Sécure National Park as Evo Morales
wants, 60% of the park will be deforested within 20 years. Noelia Garzón,
one of the authors of the study said that their research was based on
satellite imagery of the progress of deforestation in the southern part of
the park itself. Garzón said that this data shows that about 600,000
hectares (1.482 million acres) would be affected by the highway development
through the middle of this protected indigenous homeland. Garzón also
pointed out, that even at the current rate of colonization in the southern
part of the park, the so called Polygon 7 area, roughly 40% of the park
will be deforested in 20 years.

To learn more in Spanish see:


 link to nacla.org

Bolivia: TIPNIS Protesters Launch National March, Seek Indigenous-Urban

Emily Achtenberg

Rebel Currents < http://nacla.org/node/7334>
April 27, 2012

After a week fraught with tension, the second march to protest the Bolivian
government's proposed highway through the TIPNIS (Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous
Territory and National Park) is set to depart today (April 27) from the
Amazonian department of Beni, headed towards the highland capital of La

Originally scheduled to begin in the village of Chaparina, where
participants in the first TIPNIS march were brutally repressed by police
last September, the march was rerouted to start from the departmental
capital of Trinidad due to a road blockade by highway supporters in San
Ignacio de Moxos, preventing access to Chaparina. The protestors are
expected to follow the 360-mile route of last year's march, arriving in La
Paz in late June.[image: 929] Location of march route blockades. Credit:
Página Siete.

Unlike the first TIPNIS march, whose agenda was limited to the proposed
highway and related concerns of CIDOB, the lowlands indigenous federation
that has co-sponsored both mobilizations, the new march is billed as a
national march for indigenous, environmental, and human rights and has
actively solicited the participation of urban sectors. According to TIPNIS
leader *Fernando
Vargas*< http://www.eldeber.com.bo/vernotanacional.php?id=120424235310>,
the march is "not against President Evo Morales, but against his policies
that violate the rights of Mother Earth and the Bolivian Constitution,
approved by the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) government."

The highway project has bitterly divided inhabitants of the TIPNIS and of
the Beni and Cochabamba departments which would be linked by the proposed
road. The 5-day blockade, led by the San Ignacio Regional Workers Central
and its 30 organizational affiliates, was backed by local MAS government
authorities who reportedly *threatened*
< link to www.la-razon.com
with utility shut-offs if they failed to participate. Interior Minister
Carlos Romero intervened directly to negotiate an agreement disbanding the
blockade, at least temporarily.

"The indigenous protesters have a *legitimate
right*< http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483958216>to
march in peace," said Romero. "If necessary, the government will
provide security and protection to guarantee the march." This represents a
significant departure from the government's posture during the first TIPNIS
march, when federal police effectively *reinforced* the anti-march blockade
at Chaparina and repressed the protesters in order to "save" them from a

The UN Human Rights Commission has encouraged this change of message, along with other
steps recently taken by Morales to help defuse current tensions. In
addition to *cancelling the road
contract*< link to nacla.org
Brazilian construction firm OAS, Morales has asked the legislature to
extend the controversial community consultation process on the TIPNIS road
for another 90 days, through September 10. Romero has also stated that the
government is open to "*unconditional
with the TIPNIS protestors, who are boycotting the *consulta* which they
regard as illegitimate.

Still, the government has refused to indefinitely suspend the *consulta*, a
step suggested by the UN and several MAS congressional leaders to
facilitate the trust, dialogue, and prior agreements needed to legitimize
the consultation process. Morales continues to *insist
*< link to www.la-razon.com

that the TIPNIS road is the only feasible route to connect the Beni and
Cochabamba departments, and has recently inaugurated helicopter, land, and
water tours for reporters to propagandize his position for a captive

Inside the TIPNIS, Morales has continued the controversial practice of
delivering outboard motors, solar panels, and promises of development
projects in a manner that critics say is timed to deter participation in
the march and encourage support for the *consulta*. Government officials
claimed this week that they have secured the support of *52 of 68*
i< link to www.paginasiete.bo
communities for the *consulta* protocol. The Sécure Subcentral,
representing 16 communities and under (contested) new leadership, has
reportedly reversed its previous position and now supports the *consulta *and
opposes the march*.*

Outside the TIPNIS, the government has signed programmatic agreements with
12 of the 13 CIDOB regionals. At least *5
regionals*< http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-04-22/Nacional/Destacados/03Nal01220412.aspx>,
including 2 key indigenous groups in Beni (CPIB and CMIB) are officially
boycotting the march.

Still, factions within these organizations, including
the *vice president of
CPIB*,< http://www.eldeber.com.bo/nota.php?id=120425235143>

have shown up in Trinidad to join the march, supporting TIPNIS leaders'
contention that residents will defy local leaders to defend their territory
as a matter of conscience.[image: 932] Lowland/ highland indigenous leaders
finalize march plans. Credit: El Dia

While the delays, blockades, and internal divisions—along with the absence
of Fernando Vargas, felled by dengue fever—have posed early challenges for
the march, the relocation of the march route has provided an opportunity
for indigenous protesters to strengthen their ties with urban sectors. This
week in Trinidad, mobilized public health workers and teachers *joined
forces* < http://www.eldeber.com.bo/nota.php?id=120425235143>

with the TIPNIS marchers in a demonstration of solidarity. Some 2,000 workers from
the Beni *Departmental Workers Central
*< http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-04-26/Nacional/Destacados/3Nac00326-02.aspx>

will accompany the march from Trinidad to San Ignacio, reasserting the pro-march
stance of the COB (Bolivian Workers Central), its national parent
organization, against the dissident regional.

The march is developing at a moment of heightened social conflict in
Bolivia, with *strikes*
< link to www.washingtonpost.com

underway by doctors, public health workers, and urban teachers. Major mobilizations
by the COB around wage demands shut down La Paz this week, with significant
demonstrations in other departmental capitals.

These constituencies were well represented at a recent meeting in La Paz
attended by leaders of some 300 indigenous, labor, environmental,
neighborhood, and human rights organizations from 5 cities, to discuss the
formation of an *"indigenous-urban alliance"
*< http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483957665>
the TIPNIS issue. If the national TIPNIS march succeeds in joining the
demands of these sectors into a unified platform with broad-based support,
the consequences could be far-reaching not only for the TIPNIS conflict,
but for Bolivia's political future as well.