Indigenous Leaders Sign Agreement With Government for Consultation on TIPNIS Highway
UPDATED JULY 9, 2012: Marchers who walked for two months to reach Bolivian President Evo Morales' doorstep in protest of a road that would cut through the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS) reject the agreement signed last week, saying some signatories to the agreement with the government do not live within the indigenous territory and cannot participate in decisions regarding it. Following a week that saw several confrontations between marchers attempting to enter the Plaza Murillo and police barring access to the key area, marchers have vowed to remain in La Paz as their cause attracts increasing support from sectors of society including university students and teachers. A July 10 march in support of the TIPNIS protesters is planned in La Paz.
On July 3 representatives from some communities within Bolivia's National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS) signed an agreement with the government for a consultation process within the park regarding a highway that would cut through the area.
According to State news sources, about 70 percent of the 63 local representatives from communities within the park attended yesterday's meeting and agreed that a consultation can take place. Those leaders represent some of the communities belonging to three organizations within the park, the TIPNIS Subcentral, the Secure Subcentral, and the CONISUR Subcentral. Eighteen representatives from CONISUR participated in the meeting, while 12 representatives from TIPNIS Subcentral participated. For details on these organizations, click here.
Fernando Vargas is president of the TIPNIS Subcentral, and leader of a 2-month march against the road whose participants are currently camped near government offices in the city of La Paz. Vargas did not participate in the meeting, telling La Paz-based daily La Razon that the government seeks to splinter people from the TIPNIS on the road issue, and that the marchers have demands that need attention from the government.
Marchers have raised questions about the participation of CONISUR in decisions regarding the road. Many members of CONISUR are farmers who cultivate the coca leaf, strongly favor the road, and live outside the indigenous territory, yet still within the national park. The residents of the indigenous territory hold collective land titles and are members of lowlands indigenous groups that historically lived in the area, while many members of CONISUR hold individual land titles and live in areas with high rates of migration from western Bolivia. Marchers say these farmers want a road so they can push further into the TIPNIS to cultivate more coca, grabbing land and ignoring the indigenous territory's boundaries, while the Bolivian government says the current plan for the road is the only viable way to link eastern and western Bolivia.
While marchers remain camped in central La Paz, Tuesday's agreement seems to clear the way for the Bolivian government to begin a consultation inside the TIPNIS in the coming weeks.
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