Eye on the Amazon

Update on the Situation in Bolivia

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Send a letter to the Bolivian Minister of Foreign Affairs urging the Bolivian government to curb tensions by immediately stopping the violent repression and by entering into good-faith dialogue with the marchers.

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Yesterday Amazon Watch released an action alert in support and defense of the indigenous communities of the Isiboro Sécure National park and indigenous Territories (TIPNIS), from repression carried out by the police against the protesters while they were marching to La Paz, Bolivia's capitol city.

We are delighted report that since we launched the action, over 3,000 people have sent the letter of concern to the Bolivian authorities! But we need to keep working and sending our support to the TIPNIS communities. Please take action if you haven't already.

Reflection From Bolivia

We encourage you to read this brief and excellent overview of the situation, written by long-time Bolivia expert and resident Jim Shultz of The Democracy Center: "An Open Letter About the Current Situation in Bolivia"

Letter from Pablo Solón

This morning we received a public statement issued by Pablo Solón Romero, who served as Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations from February 2009 to July 2011. Solón has played a very high profile role at recent U.N. climate summits and is a recognizable face amongst international circles that follow events in Bolivia. We believe it is significant that he has added his voice to the serious international concern about what has transpired in Bolivia in recent days.

He reminded that Bolivia – as the country that initiated the international Day of Mother Earth and as the promoter of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples – must stick to the responsibilities acquired within that frameworks and lead the way by applying the different existing guarantees for indigenous and environmental rights.

Solón regretted what happened with the TIPNIS and declared that it is preferable to expend more money building a road that doesn't go through the National Park and Indigenous Territory than pay for the social and environmental costs that would bring the construction of the road as they have designed originally.

Key excerpts:

  • ...there must be coherence between what we do and what we say. One cannot speak of defending Mother Earth and at the same time promote the construction of a road that will harm Mother Earth, doesn't respect indigenous rights and violates human rights in an "unforgiveable" way...
  • It is incomprehensible that we promote a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations in 2014 if we don't lead the way in applying the principle of "informed, free and prior consent" for indigenous peoples in our own country...
  • The conflict in TIPNIS should never have happened. Greater physical integration of the country is necessary, but does not need to go through the "Indigenous Territory and National Park of Isibore Secure" (TIPNIS). Obviously building a road that doesn't go trough the park would be more expensive, but trying to save $200 million or $300 million dollars at any social and environmental cost goes against the very principles of the "Living Well”...
  • It's not too late to resolve this crisis if we suspend permanently the construction of the road trough the TIPNIS, bring to justice those responsible for the repression to the indigenous march, and open up a broad and participatory national and regional debate to define a new agenda of actions in the framework of the Living Well...

Brazil Suspends Financing for the Road

Finally, we'd like to publish our un-official English translation of an article that came out last night on Brazil's El Estadao website. After the violent events and President Evo Morales' announcement that he would suspend construction of the road, the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) decided to suspend their loan of $332 millions dollars. Brazil is the key financier of the construction of the road designed to facilitate commerce between Bolivia and Brazil.

The role of Brazilian financing, corporations, and geo-strategic interests is an important aspect of this story that Amazon Watch will continue to follow. We would note the striking similarities between social conflicts caused with indigenous peoples in the case of the TIPNIS road and the sister situation within Brazil around the Belo Monte Dam.

The Brazilian National Development Bank Suspends Financing for Road Construction
El Estadao, 28 September 2011
Lisandra Paraguassu / Brasília

"The Brazilian Government, through its National Development Bank (BNDES), suspended the release of funds to the highway that has become the focal point of protests in recent days in the north of Bolivia. The $332 million that finance the construction of stretches of road being built by OAS (a Brazilian construction company), will only be released when the Bolivian Government decides that it is able to ensure adequate conditions for construction.

"This Monday, Bolivian president Evo Morales, suspended the construction of the stretch of road between Beni and Cochabamba. This is part of the project that plans to link Brazil to the Pacific coast. Thus the Brazilian Government has an interest in the issue. The planned route cuts across an Indigenous territory where three separate ethnicities live. Negotiations with the Morales administration are expected to start in the coming days.

"The violent reaction by the indigenous communities took the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry by surprise. The Brazilian Government is now waiting for a change in the situation on the ground before the financing will be resumed. However it will not participate in any of the negotiations. The government's official stance is that this is an internal issue of Bolivia and it is not Brazil's role to intervene."

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