Second TIPNIS anti-road march begins
27 April 2012
Dario Kenner, La Paz
Updates on Bolivia: https://twitter.com/dariokenner
It is hard to believe but today a second march against a proposed road through the indigenous territory and national park TIPNIS (National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Sécure) set off on its way to La Paz. Around 300 people, including representatives of indigeous movements CIODB and CONAMAQ, left the Amazonian town of Trinidad at 4.30pm. The first march between August and October 2011 covered over 350 miles on the same route (see map).
Why is there a second march after President Evo Morales approved a law on 24 October 2011 banning any road through the TIPNIS? This blog reported in January that the Bolivian government has never changed its aim of building the road despite the political crisis caused by the first anti-road march. Indigenous leaders are angry at the government attempt to carry out a prior consultation process scheduled for May and argue this cannot take place until the entire project returns to “ground zero.” Road building at each end of the project has already started (so far not inside the TIPNIS) and a contract was signed in 2008 to build the road. This contract has recently been revoked (see below).
NACLA reported on 16 April:
“Our problem is not with OAS or with any other contractor, but with the road itself, which must not pass through the TIPNIS,” says Fernando Vargas, president of the TIPNIS Subcentral.
“We respect their right to march, but it’s no longer about the highway,” says Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “Now they are marching against the consulta, for political ends. It will be the first march against democracy in Bolivian history.”
The current political situation is different compared to August 2011 when the first anti-road march started. To begin with there is already a history: the first march took two and a half months, was repressed by police on 25 September 2011, and eventually got to La Paz and forced President Morales to pass a law banning a road. Then between December and January there was a pro-road march led by indigenous communities in the south of the TIPNIS which led to the government passing another law to begin a consultation process (Law 222).
Since then several important things have happened:
- January 2012: Increasing evidence of links between certain CIDOB indigenous leaders and right-wing political parties. There are divisions within the CIDOB about the controversial decision by CIDOB President Adolfo Chávez to sign agreements with opposition governor of the Santa Cruz region Rubén Costas in January. NACLA reported on this in February commenting “Costas led the “Media Luna” autonomist movement against the MAS government in 2008, and is widely viewed as the “intellectual author” behind the violent takeover of government buildings in Santa Cruz and attacks on indigenous groups, including the CIDOB offices”. Since January it is unclear what has happened with these links but they are something to watch as the march progresses.
- March: Internal divisions within the CIDOB indigenous movement, that represents 34 nations from the Amazon and Chaco, partially due to several regional organisations (regionales) of the CIDOB signing independent bilateral agreements with the government.
- Early April: Bolivian government revokes road contract with Brazilian company OAS although it still wants to build the road. This takes away one of the main motivations for starting the second march which was to demand the Bolivian government comply with its obligation to conduct a prior consultation which it violated by signing a contract with OAS in 2008.
- Mid April: Government announces it will delay the consultation process scheduled to begin on 10 May. Indigenous leaders continue to demand repeal of Law 222 (to begin the consultation) as condition to begin dialogue.
- Late April: Pro-road blockade at San Ignacio de Moxos by local unions means the march cannot begin in Chaparina on 25 April and therefore starts in Trinidad (much further away from La Paz – see map). Interior Minister Carlos Romero negotiates to end the blockade but pro-road groups say will block the route when the anti-road march arrives (see Amnesty International statement in Spanish for background including details of attack on local radio station by pro-road groups).
Demands of the march
The CIDOB met on 11 April to decide on the demands (in Spanish) of the march “In defence of Life and Dignity, Indigenous Territories, Natural Resources, Biodiversity, the Environment and Protected Areas, Fulfilment of the Bolivian Constitution and Respect for Democracy”
The demands include for the:
- Bolivian government to comply with the law banning any road through the TIPNIS.
- Repeal of the law starting the consultation process in the TIPNIS.
- Implementing agreements the Bolivian government made on cleaning up oil contamination in the Agurague national park (background).
- Immediate land titles for indigenous territories (TCOs) and removal of illegal settlements.
- Protection of the environment including; direct administration of Protected Areas by indigenous peoples and application of regulations where extractive/sustainable development projects affect indigenous territories.
- Imprisonment of material and intellectual authors of 25 September police repression of first anti-road march.
- Bolivian government to implement agreements made at the end of the first anti-road march and also recent bilateral agreements with regional organisations (regionales) of the CIDOB.
- Modification of electoral laws to incorporate a representative for each of the 36 indigenous nations in the Plurinational Assembly and indigenous judges – both elected directly by indigenous communities.
- Plurinational Assembly to discuss CIDOB and CONAMAQ proposal for a law on consultation.
- End to government interference in indigenous movements, respect for right to self-determination, rejection of parallel indigenous organisations created by the government.
There will be further information on this blog as the march continues. Regular updates on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dariokenner
Recent analysis in English:
27 April. NACLA: Bolivia: TIPNIS Protesters Launch National March, Seek Indigenous-Urban Alliance LINK
16 April. NACLA: New Twist for TIPNIS Road: Bolivia Cancels Highway Contract LINK
More analysis in Spanish:
26 Abril 2012. Erbol: 17 claves para entender la marcha en defensa del Isiboro Sécure LINK
26 Abril. ALAI: Novena marcha LINK
22 Abril 2012. Rául Prada blog: Otra vez el TIPNIS LINK