Bolivia TIPNIS update: second anti-road march scheduled for 25 April
1 April 2012
Dario Kenner, La Paz
Updates on Bolivia: https://twitter.com/dariokenner
Last week leaders of lowland indigenous movement CIDOB decided to start the second march against a proposed road through the TIPNIS (national park and indigenous territory) on 25 April leaving from Chaparina heading to La Paz. The indigenous communities who live inside the TIPNIS are affiliated to the CIDOB that represents 34 indigenous nations in Bolivia´s Amazon and Chaco regions.
The choice of Chaparina is symbolic because this was where the Bolivian police used tear gas and for several hours forcibly detained hundreds of indigenous marchers who were protesting the road project on 25 September 2011. So far there has been little progress in bringing the people responsible for the repression 6 months ago to justice. Former Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti was identified as the “intellectual author” by the Ombudsmen in November but he has not been formally charged.
This map shows the route of the first anti-road march from August to October 2011 between Trinidad and La Paz. Chaparina is to the north east of La Paz. It is difficult to estimate how long it would take for the second march to arrive in La Paz but it could be around one month (detailed background on the TIPNIS conflict including communities for and against the road project).
Preparations and divisions
As the indigenous communities inside the TIPNIS and the CIDOB continue preparations for the march different positions are emerging. The CIDOB claims to represent around one million indigenous peoples from 34 nations from the north west, the Amazon and south east Bolivia. Such diversity means it is not a monolithic movement and the 13 regional organisations (regionales) have different relationships with local, regional and national government. For example, they might be more independent or closer to the Evo Morales government.
Last week Indigenous congressmen Pedro Nuni said 12 out of the 13 regional organisations of the CIDOB will participate in the second anti-road march. The regional organisation in the Beni region (where the road would be built) backed the march but some indigenous peoples such as the Chiquitanos have said they will not march. Sources present at the meeting commented that the leadership of the CIDOB and the TIPNIS communities (TIPNIS Subcentral) strongly back the march but there are internal fractures because of the agreements the Morales government has signed with several CIDOB regional organisations including from the La Paz and Santa Cruz regions, and with the Guaraní Peoples Assembly. There are also reports of attempts to create a parallel indigenous organisation inside the TIPNIS that will support the construction of the road through the territory.
According to indigenous leaders I spoke to these types of divisions existed before and during the first anti-road march that set off on 15 August with some CIDOB regional organisations wanting to end the march and negotiate with the government after only a few weeks while other regional organisations wanted to get to La Paz. They told me the police repression of the march on 25 September 2011 was a huge catalyst to unify the march and ensure it got to La Paz in October to force President Morales to pass a law banning a road through the TIPNIS.
The second anti-road march will probably go ahead but the internal workings of social movements such as the CIDOB are complex and nothing is guaranteed. Even if the march were not to happen indigenous communities inside the TIPNIS who oppose the road have said they will resist the process of consultation the government wants to take forward in May because it is will not be prior to construction of the road and the signing of a contract with Brazilian company OAS.
Indian Country: 30 March 2012 - Bolivia TIPNIS Road Conflict Reignites
NACLA 23 March 2012 - Bolivia: TIPNIS Communities Plan National March and Resistance to Government Consulta
Bolivia Diary 19 March 2012 - Second march against TIPNIS road project due to start in April
Detailed account of the police repression and testimonies of the marchers in a book published recently by Fundación Tierra (Spanish).