Progress in Bolivia: Bolivian President agrees to meet local Indians

Bolivian Indians walking their protest march with arrow and bow in their hands Bolivian Indians on their way to la Paz

Sep 1, 2011

Since August 15, about 1,000 Bolivian Indians – women, men, children and elderly people – are on a protest march toward La Paz. In about one month they are hoping to complete their journey of about 400 miles from the rainforest to the Presidential Palace. Now the Bolivian president wants to personally receive the indigenous people as requested.

Since August 15, about 1,000 Bolivian Indians – women, men, children and elderly people – are on a protest march toward La Paz. In about one month they are hoping to complete their journey of about 400 miles from the rainforest to the Presidential Palace. Now it seems they have reached an important milestone: Last Sunday the Bolivian President Evo Morales finally showed some understanding for the Indians’ concerns and toned down his recent harsh remarks. He now wants to personally receive the indigenous people as requested. Furthermore, they government is finally said to be willing to try and find an alternative route together with the Indians.

The government is planning to put the 190 miles highway directly through Indian Territory and a National Parque, Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS). With its 3861 square miles, TIPNIS is the largest nature reserve in Bolivia. The rainforest growing within the combined Indian and Nature Reserve area is home to an enormous biodiversity and enables its inhabitants to live traditional lives in harmony with nature. However, highways running through rainforest areas would be open doors for loggers, gold hunters, property speculators and plantation companies – which is why indigenous people and environmentalists are opposed to this infrastructure project.

Rainforest Rescue supports both the demands and the protest march of the Bolivian Indians. More than 20,000 people have already signed our online protest in several languages. On August 19, our association handed these signatures over to the Bolivian ambassador in Berlin, Germany. During the ensuing personal meeting we once more stated our opposition to the highway construction across the rainforest. Finding a solution to the conflict is urgently required, as project contracts have already been signed. Bolivia’s neighbouring country Brazil intends to finance a loan of 332 million dollars for the highway construction because with this new arterial road, exporting Brazilian products via harbours in Chile and Peru would become much easier...

Update: When we informed the indigenous protesters about the 20,000 signatures collected by Rainforest Rescue that had just been handed over to the Bolivian ambassador in Berlin, this news was met with great applause. Now that the Bolivian Indians have been on the move for more than 20 days, there has been even more progress: First negotiations between the government and the activists have already taken place as promised – with 10 government ministers and the President himself attending the meetings ‘with optimism and hopes’ and ,determined to maintain a brotherly and honest dialogue with complete transparency’.