Interview: Lázaro Tacó – spokesperson of second TIPNIS anti-road march

16 May 2012

Dario Kenner, Trinidad

Updates on Bolivia: https://twitter.com/dariokenner

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While passing through the town of Trinidad in Bolivia´s central amazon region I talked to Lázaro Tacó who is one of the key indigenous leaders behind the second march against a road through the TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory. For more information see previous articles on this blog. Detailed background at this link.

Exclusive interiew: Lázaro Tacó, spokesperson for the second anti-road march, Chiqutano indigenous peoples

Lázaro Tacó, spokesperson second TIPNIS march (credit: La Prensa)

Lázaro Tacó, spokesperson second TIPNIS march (credit: La Prensa)

Before the march started the national government put obstacles in our way that we have already condemned. The government organised a blockade in San Ignacio de Moxos. This meant the marchers could not congregate in San Borja on 22 April to then start the march on 25 April from Chaparina towards La Paz. The march was forced to change the start date and location. It began from Trinidad on 27 April (see map – Trinidad is much further away from La Paz than Chaparina).

We have had difficulties such as heavy rains and the dirt road has turned into mud. The humidity and sleeping on the side of the road has also taken its toll. All these conditions mean the marchers have got ill with flu and also stomach aches due to lack of food of water. We have always had moral support and now the material support is arriving from the cities. The conditions though have made it difficult for others to join. I have just been in San Borja to try and generate support there.

How many people are marching? Are they from the TIPNIS?

There are representatives of indigenous peoples but not in the same numbers as last year. There were 400 when it set off but now there are 250. This is because of the cold and the rains.

Some regional organisations (regionales) of the CIDOB (indigenous social movement representing 34 indigenous nations mainly from the Amazon) have not turned up but people from those communities (bases) are arriving. For example they have told me 20 will arrive from San Ignacio de Velasco. The lack of money has also meant people can´t afford to travel to get to the march. (There are also reports that the leaders of CIDOB´s 13 regional organisations will meet this weekend to discuss the future of CIDOB President Adolfo Chávez who they argue has weakened the CIDOB because he bypassed agreements these regionales signed with the government, background).

Will more people join the march at San Borja?

I think they will because from San Borja to the Yungas region the road is more stable and less muddy. From Trinidad to San Borja it is very difficult.

First TIPNIS anti-road march October 2011 (credit: Dario Kenner)

First TIPNIS anti-road march October 2011 (credit: Dario Kenner)

Why are you marching for a second time against the road through the TIPNIS?

Last year the first anti-road march succeeded in getting Law 180 to protect the TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory but the government did accept this victory for Bolivia´s lowland indigenous peoples. So because they felt they lost the government wanted to show the country its strength. So they promoted the pro-road CONISUR march – who are essentially cocaleros (coca growers), they are not indigenous, they have individual instead of collective land titles that indigenous peoples have. They marched to demand the repeal of Law 180. As the march was backed by the government they agree to pass another law to do a consultation (Law 222) inside the TIPNIS. For the cocaleros to demand a law for other sectors shows a lack of respect. At no point have we marched to demand a law for the cocaleros. We are marching for Law 222 (that starts a consultation process) to be repealed and for Law 180 to stay in place that defends the TIPNIS.

The social movements that are allied to the governing political party (the MAS party led by President Evo Morales) such as the cocaleros, Bartolinas (National Confederation of Native Indigenous Peasant Women “Bartolina Sisa”), Interculturales (Confederation of Intercultural Communities of Bolivia – CSCIB) and Campesinos (CSUTCB – Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers Unions) – are used to holding summits where they decide on the laws of the country. This is an abuse of the power of the President who was voted in by the Bolivian people. For example on health they said there should be a summit where they decide on 8 working hours for the health sector (background on health workers protests).

We do not understand how in our country one sector allied with a government – not all of the Bolivian people – can demand laws for other sectors. These are the conflicts at the moment in the country. We do not have a President who wants to take forward the work of the state. This President seeks divisions and to impose things. He is arrogant, authoritarian and stubborn. This does not lead to harmony in the country.

The march published its demands the other day. Is the objective to get to La Paz or to negotiate before with the government?

We want to get to La Paz. The government needs to respect the Constitution. We are willing to negotiate our demands before getting to La Paz as long as the government repeals Law 222.

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While the Bolivian government attempts to deal with protests and demands of other sectors (trade unions, health workers etc) its position on the TIPNIS is that the consultation process will begin on 1o June. Holding a consultation in June is controversial because building has begun at both ends of the road project. The contract with Brazilian company OAS (signed in 2008) was only cancelled at the start of April. Rebeca Delgado, President of the Bolivian Congress, of the governing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party said the demands of the marchers were unconstitutional because they want to change an article in the Constitution (approved by over 60% in a national referendum in 2009) that established natural resources as the property of all Bolivians, to instead say they are property of indigenous peoples (follow this debate here).

There will be further information on this blog as the march continues. Regular updates on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dariokenner and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BoliviaDiary

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