Some 2,000 peasants and cocaleros from the Indigenous Council of the South (CONISUR) arrived in La Paz Jan. 31, after a 40-day march from Isinuta in the Chapare region of Cochabamba department, to demand that President Evo Morales move ahead with plans to build a highway through their lands on the edge of the Amazon rainforest. Morales put the project on hold last year after a larger cross-country march in opposition to it met with police repression. Several thousand supporters of Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) swelled the ranks of the CONISUR marchers as they passed through El Alto, the sprawling working-class city on the altiplano above La Paz. El Alto’s MAS mayor, Édgar Patana, welcomed them as “illustrious guests” of the city before their final descent into La Paz. (NACLA News, Feb. 3; AFP, Cambio, La Paz, Jan. 31)
Contrary to the implication of some English-language accounts, the CONISUR marchers did not all come from the Isiboro Secure National Park Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), as last year’s march against the road had. Last year’s anti-road marchers had come from the part of TIPNIS that lies deeper in the rainforest, in Beni department, bordering Cochabamba on the north. (See map.) CONISUR appears to be made up of peasant colonists from the highlands, mostly Aymara, who have started to penetrate the TPINIS; while the anti-road mobilization was led by the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), mostly Guaraní and other natives of the rainforest who are original inhabitants of the TIPNIS.
A commission from the Bolivian Legislative Assembly has been assigned to draw up a bill to resolve the conflict over the proposed highway. Vice President Alvaro García Linera stated that the commission will work closely with CONISUR on a new bill to replace Short Law 180, which suspended the project in October. (Prensa Latina, Feb. 3)