9 October 2011.
Indigenous March: “It feels like this country has a dictatorship”
The Eighth Indigenous March is still kicking up dust on its trek towards the city of La Paz which they hope to get to by this weekend. This afternoon they got to the community of San Pedro after walking for eight hours (31 kilometers) from the town of Caranavi where they were given a fond farewell. With regard to the dialogue with the government of Evo Morales “we are back at the beginning. Since 15 August it has not changed much despite the various intentions of the Ministers who have wanted to distract the marchers and who failed. The failures continued on 25 (September) when the government wanted to break up the march. Since we regrouped we are determined to get to the city of La Paz because this government needs to understand that in the name of “development” it cannot marginalize and violate the rights of indigenous peoples”, said Adolfo Chávez Beyuma, President of the Confederation of Bolivian Indigenous Peoples (CIDOB) and a member of the Tacana indigenous peoples.
At five in the morning the firecrackers and loud music begin to wake up the 1,200 marchers with the aim to leave Caranavi at 6am. Tens of local residents arrive at the indigenous camp to say their goodbyes and wish the marchers good luck for the their trek to the city of La Paz. When the march was getting ready to leave Caranavi a car with a speaker went in front to tell local residents to wake up to say farewell to the march.
An elderly man hugs a journalist and says “we congratulate the brothers from the TIPNIS”. When he was told it was not a marcher but a journalist the man said “we are with them” and pointed at the lines of indigenous marchers that looked like it went on forever.
“Well done brothers!”, shouted the people of Caranavi as they applauded the march from their rooftops, many still being built. The Eighth Indigenous March passed the bridge into the last neighbourhood called Villa La Paz before getting back onto the dust and green scenery of the road towards La Paz. There they were also given a send off and as good hosts invited to return when they wanted to.
The marchers from the 36 indigenous peoples of Bolivia, and a dozen foreigners, advanced with their bows, arrows, flags and recently painted banners – because the original ones were confiscated and destroyed by the national police in an attack near to Yucumo on 25 September. Many of the marchers have rucksacks with children´s characters like Batman, Barbie and others from Walt Disney. They were donated by the population of Rurrenabaque who freed 300 marchers who were detained by the police. Inside their rucksacks they have the little they were able to salvage from the camp in Chaprina or new things populations have given to them.
The indigenous marchers stopped in the community of San Pedro at 2.30pm next to the river Coroico. In this small community of fifty families they were received with drinks for their dusty mouths. If tomorrow they advance to the community of Yolosa they would be 98 kilometers from the main square in La Paz (Plaza Murillo).
Here the marchers ask the local population for support and they give them ponochos for the rain because in the transition from the heat of the Yungas to the cold of the highlands they will cross several downpours. They will also ask for thick clothes, mainly for those from the Amazon, because when they reach the peak of the highlands it will be the coldest part covered by the indigenous march. The representatives from the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) clarify they will have no problem because they were born in that climate.
They need meat, fruit and medicines to resist the trek in the next few days. They also need water which they asked for in Caranavi because it is currently the closest town nearest to the Eighth Indigenous March. Fernando Vargas Mosúa, President of the communities of the Subcentral of the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), praised the relationship the people of Caranvai established with the marchers.
“It now feels like this country has a dictatorship because everyone who defends their rights is repressed, attacked and humiliated. The people of Caranavi came to say goodbye to us because they believe our struggle is so that in the future there is respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, individuals and above all of Mother Earth, nature, biodiversity and our Big Home of the indigenous peoples, where each of us lives”, said Vargas a member of the Mojeño people.
“The people of Caranavi have understood that to see us is to have a meeting between nations, to show the country and the government that the peoples and nations of this country have to be respected, we need to support each other to take this country forward”, added Vargas. In Caranavi various indigenous peoples joined the march which now has around 1,200 people on it.
“70 people arrived from the TIPNIS. This is a big boost for us. Also people have arrive from CPILAP (La Paz Indigenous Peoples Central) and the TIM (Multi-Ethnic Indigenous Territory). This gives us more courage, but not the courage to fight, instead the courage to demand respect for our rights and that justice really is justice”, said Vargas.
Yesterday the marchers camp was visited by the Senators Gabrila Montaño and Adolfo Mendoza who presented a proposal for a law to temporarily suspend the work on the road between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos pending a consultation and decision from those who live inside the TIPNIS on whether they want the road. This proposal was immediately rejected by the marchers. They demand the national government forms a commission comprised of indigenous deputies Pedro Nuni and Bienvenido Zacu, along with MAS parliamentarians to agree on a proposal that would protect the TIPNIS from roads and other destructive impacts.
“There is a commission of our indigenous parliamentarians that should work on a proposal for a law that guarantees the TIPNIS is not destroyed now, tomorrow or ever. Above all this law must guarantee the existence of indigenous peoples and a life in harmony with nature. If the government Senators really love this country then they should comply with the Constitution. We are not asking any government official to do us a favor or for preferential treatment for indigenous peoples. The only thing we ask for is respect for our rights”, said Vargas.
“While we continue to march our indigenous deputies will visit us to inform us about the state of progress on this law”, he added.
In La Paz
The Aymara leader Rafael Quispe Flores, Mallku of the Extractive Industries Commission of CONAMAQ, met with leaders of several social movements from La Paz and El Alto.
“We hoped the President would go to Caranavi but now that we are continuing our march the political context in Bolivia is changing because for us there is no going back. We have to get to the city of La Paz where we will maintain our demand that indigenous territories are respected. We have seen that institutions and social movements in La Paz are preparing for all or nothing. They say this government is insensitive and that is not possible. That is what they said to us. We are going to continue with our peaceful march because we have the moral high ground. The institutions will do their work. The President does not know about any of these preparations because being in power he thinks he is Hitler, he wants to consolidate a fascist government but the people will not let him do it. The people will mobilise when the march gets to La Paz”, said Quispe.
In this region the vehicles go along the road right next to the mountains and always on the left hand side, the way they do it in countries such as England. This causes confusion amongst the marchers and also of the Indigenous Guard. The head of the Indigenous Guard tells goes to tell off the person in charge of escorting the march who was leading the march on the right hand side, the way it normally is in the rest of Bolivia.
- Brother, why don´t you understand? This is our route (the left hand lane) and this is dangerous (the right hand lane) – he shouts at him waving his arms. “This is the last time”, he warns the very confused person in charge of escorting the march.
The President of CIDOB clarifies once again that the Eighth Indigenous March does not oppose the construction of the road between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos. “We have stated the road must not go through the heart of the TIPNIS but there must be alternatives for another route that does not affect the Chimán, Yuracaré and Mojeño-Trinitario peoples. The government needs to understand this. And as this government is good at lending money they should be able to find the funders to put forward the money needed to change the route of the road so that it does not affect the TIPNIS.
(Communications Commission of the Eighth Indigenous March)