LA PAZ, Oct 25, 2011 (IPS) – With victory cheers and predictions of future campaigns in defence of their ancestral territory, indigenous protesters from Bolivia’s Amazon jungle region celebrated the new law that banned the construction of the road through their rainforest reserve.
The 66-day march by the demonstrators to La Paz and the controversy over the road undermined the backing for President Evo Morales among his main support base, the country’s indigenous majority.
Late Monday, Morales signed into law the agreement putting an end to the plan to build the road that was opposed by some 1,000 native protesters from the Amazon, who made the gruelling 600-km march from the rainforest to La Paz.
The demonstrators, who were subjected to a brutal police crackdown in late September near a remote village 330 km north of La Paz, were greeted as heroes by thousands of people who took to the streets on Wednesday Oct. 19 to welcome them when they reached this city in Bolivia’s western highlands……. …….The indigenous peoples of the Amazon region make up 10 percent of the 10 million inhabitants of Bolivia, where over 60 percent of the population are native people, mainly belonging to the Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups concentrated in the western highlands. Morales, the country’s first-ever indigenous president, is an Aymara Indian.
next…Save the Madidi Campaign
In an interview with IPS, environmentalist Carmen Capriles, one of the leaders of the Save the Madidi Campaign, discussed the concept of the “plurinational state”, as established by the new constitution that went into effect in 2009, in which she said indigenous communities and people of mixed-race or European descent mutually recognise their different identities while declaring their unity in the Bolivian state.
The activist, who is working to defend the 1.9-million-hectare Madidi National Park in northwestern Bolivia, said the plurinational state was achieved by a struggle waged along the country’s roads and in its jungles and mountains, in the face of repression and stiff opposition.
Capriles also said there is a growing sense of unity between indigenous people from poor rural areas and from urban slums, who are forging a natural alliance to defend nature.
Morales’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost champions of the environment was hurt by the plan to build the road across the TIPNIS reserve.
She was referring to areas like the Madidi National Park and the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands in the north of the province of La Paz – which are close to recently discovered oil reserves.
In addition, the projected El Bala hydroelectric dam would flood some 300,000 hectares of land in the Madidi National Park and the adjacent Pilón Lajas biosphere reserve and indigenous territory, including the TCO owned by the Leco indigenous community.
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