Second TIPNIS march arrives in La Paz
28 June 2012
Dario Kenner, La Paz
Updates on Bolivia: https://twitter.com/dariokenner
For the second time in 8 months a march by representatives of indigenous movements arrived in La Paz to demand a road does not cut through the TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park. There were definitely fewer people yesterday compared to when the first march got here in October but there were still thousands of people lining the streets to welcome the marchers who covered 600km since they left Trinidad in Bolivia´s Amazon in April. The indigenous leaders of the march have said they will not leave La Paz until they have guarantees a road will not go through the TIPNIS. It remains to be seen if they will be as successful as last time when they pressured the Evo Morales government to pass a law banning any road through the TIPNIS. The Bolivian government is determined to build the road so the next few days will be crucial to see if there is a dialogue and if an agreement is reached. Last night the Bolivian government said it was willing to begin a dialogue.
For now the marchers are in mourning because this morning a 6 month old baby died from a fever due to the harsh cold (it is the coldest time of year in La Paz). In the last few days the marchers has been sleeping outside at an altitude of around 4,000 metres above sea level as they got closer to La Paz.
26 June. Indian Country Today: Indigenous Delay March as Police Strike Grips Bolivia LINK
11 June. Bolivia Diary: Second march against TIPNIS road nears La Paz LINK
Detailed background on TIPNIS issue.
Below are photos and interviews from the march yesterday
The march makes its way into the city. The President of the TIPNIS Subcentral Fernando Vargas told me the objective of the march was to ensure the government respects the Constitution, Mother Earth and indigenous territories. Listen to the interview with Fernando Vargas in Spanish.
Members of Bolivia´s indigenous peoples participate in the march in defence of the TIPNIS.
Social movements held a march and rally to show their support for the Evo Morales government. Around 5,000 people were in the Plaza Villaroel when the TIPNIS march passed along one side of the square. There were fears of potential clashes but in the end it was very calm. The main campesino social movements and miners said they backed President Morales and rejected any attempts to overthrow the government. (This march was held after a 6 day mutiny by police over salary increases ended on Tuesday and statements by the government of a possible coup attempt).
Indigenous movement CONAMAQ, that brings together indigenous communities in the western highlands and central valley´s, has participated in the second TIPNIS march since it began on 27 April. Felix Becerra, head of CONAMAQ, told me they were on this march to defend their territories and all national parks in Bolivia. Listen to interview with Felix Becerra in Spanish.
The march continues. One of the main chants throughout the day was “Yes TIPNIS, No Coca”. This was a reference to the fact that some believe a road through the TIPNIS would favour the cocaleros (coca growers), a key support base of President Morales, who could grow coca in parts of the national park they currently do not have access to. The southern area of the TIPNIS national park has been in a process of occupation by cocaleros since the 1970s (see map at this link showing area “Poligono 7) and eventually was separated from the official indigenous territory in 2009.
The march reaches the centre of La Paz.
Indigenous leaders Bertha Bejarano and Fernando Vargas give interviews as the march nears the main square (Plaza Murrillo).
The march tried to get into Plaza Murillo (main square in La Paz and location of the Presidential palace and Plurinational Assembly) at two moments but police blocked their way and the second time used pepper spray to disperse protestors. There was a lot of tension but the marchers decided to leave and go to the Plaza San Francisco where they held a rally with speeches and music.