Bolivia enacts new ‘Law of Mother Earth’

In a ceremony at the Quemado Government Palace in La Paz, Bolivia's President Evo Morales on Oct. 15 signed a new Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well—MTDIVB, by its Spanish acronym—enacting several measures that had long been demanded by the country's popular movements. The law will extend Bolivia's agrarian reform program, calling for the complete "elimination of the latifundia," with women, indigenous peoples, Afro-Bolivians and "intercultural communities" to be given preference for redistributed lands. It creates a Defender of Mother Earth office to hear public complaints related to ecological issues, and a Climate Justice Fund to oversee remediation of lands impacted by the Andean climate crisis. It tightens Bolivia's ban on genetically modified seeds, entirely prohibiting GMO seeds from the country—their importation, use, or release into the environment. The measures together are intended to bring about the country's "integral development in harmony and balance with Mother Earth," the law states.

But while Morales speaks of the "rights of Mother Earth" and his concept of "Buen Vivir"—good life or living well, portrayed as a fundamental right—his Vice President  Álvaro García Linera employs different rhetoric, speaking of a program of "Andean capitalism" and the need for an "industrial leap." In comments after the signing of the MTDIVB, he emphasized that it should not slow industrial development and resource exploitation: "If we have to produce, we have to produce; if we have to extract some mineral, we have to extract it, but finding an equilibrium between the satisfaction of needs and protecting the Mother Earth."

Two opposition indigenous organizations that had been pushing for the law as part of a pending "Unity Pact" with the government, the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) and the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB), rejected it in the end. In a joint statement they said the MTDIVB cannot truly be considered a "Law of Mother Earth," because it is based on traditional "developmentalism" with the mere addition of calling it "integral." (Bolpress, AINIEl Deber, Santa Cruz, Oct. 16)

The MTDIVB builds on a law passed year that recognized the planet Earth as a living system that is entitled to rights.