Bolivia: Aymara dissidents charge repression

Leaders of the National Council of Marka and Ayllus of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) charged that their office in the Bolivian capital La Paz was attacked by followers of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) on Sept. 16. CONAMAQ's jiliri apu mallku, or top leader, Félix Becerra,  said the MAS followers, some armed with knives and clubs, stormed the office and attempted to occupy it. A group of MAS dissident lawmakers in Bolivia's congress, calling themselves the "free-thinkers" (librepensantes), joined Becerra in denouncing the apparent attack and calling for an investigation. But a rival CONAMAQ leader, Hilarión Mamani, denied Becerra's version of events and called for dialogue with the MAS. Becerra charges that MAS is attempting to divide CONAMAQ by setting up a parallel leadership within the organization. (El Diario, La Paz, Sept. 17; Eju!, Santa Cruz, Sept. 16)

The incident comes as CONAMAQ is pressing the government of President Evo Morales on greater rights and autonomy for Bolivia's indigenous peoples. On Sept. 22, CONAMAQ formally petitioned the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to assign seats in the country's congress, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, to each of the 16 suyus or indigenous nations that make up the organization. Under the current Electoral Law, only seven seats are assigned to indigenous representatives. (La Razon, La Razon, La Paz, Sept. 22)

Sept. 29 saw a brief confrontation in Plaza Murillo, the central square in La Paz, when Becerra attempted to deliver a proposed list of amendments to a bill on indigenous autonomy to lawmakers in the congress building, and was blocked by police. The pending law on Jurisdictional Boundaries seeks to clairfy the respective roles of state and indigenous justice systems. Said Becerra: "The Constitution speaks of indigenous justice and ordinary justice on the same rank, but this jurisditcional law speaks of ordinary justice as being superior and indigenous justice on a secondary level. This is not constitutional, and therefire were propose a reform to the law." (La Razon, Sept. 20;