Bolivia: indigenous protesters break blockade —take foreign minister hostage?

Indigenous protesters armed with bows and arrows in the Bolivian Amazon broke through a police blockade to continue their cross-country march on La Paz Sept. 24—with Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca in the vanguard of their charge. One police officer was wounded, apparently by an arrow which struck his face. Officials said Choquehuanca was used as a “human shield” by the protesters, along with another government minister and a police commander, after they approached them to negotiate. Choquehuanca told EFE after his release: “I was preparing for talks when women surrounded me and then there were problems. There were some who were angry and they forced me to walk.” But he also struck a conciliatory note: “The fact that they decided to free me is a sign that they want to resolve matters through dialogue.”

Other officials took a harder line. Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti called the action a “hostage-taking.” Presidency Minister Carlos Romero said the protesters “abused the good faith of the government,” and that Choquehuanca and his colleagues had been “kidnapped.”

The marchers, who oppose government plans to build a rod through the TIPNIS indigenous reserve, were advancing on the town of Yucumo, which is populated by peasant colonists from highland Bolivia who have promised to halt their progress. Further violence is feared when the march arrives at Yucumo, some 50 kilometers away. (AP, BBC News, Opinión, Cochabamba, Sept. 24)

See our last posts on Bolivia and the struggle for the Amazon.

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