Bolivia: TIPNIS consultation extended amid protests over militarization

Bolivia's lower house Chamber of Deputies on Sept. 4 voted to extend until Dec. 7 the process of consultation with impacted indigenous communities on the controversial highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), days after the deadline for the consultation process ran out. The Aug. 26 deadline was set by Law 222, passed in February to establish a framework for the consultation—above the protests of indigenous communities opposed to the project.

The government claims the consulta has been completed in 32 of the 69 TIPNIS communities, with only one rejecting the project. Lawmaker Eleuterio Guzmán of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) said with the extension, "we are guaranteeing that all the communities will be consulted, 100%, we don't one community to be left without consultation." But some communities have pledged non-cooperation with the consultation process, and erected barbed-wire barricades across the rivers that are the principal means of transportation within the TIPNIS. The communities that have declared themselves in a state of "peaceful resistance" charge that the government has sent army troops into the reserve in an effort to intimidate local leaders and inhabitants, rendering the consultations invalid.

Indigenous TIPNIS leaders and human rights organizations have protested President Evo Morales' controversial appointment of Sacha Llorenti as Bolivia's new ambassador to the UN. Llorenti, past president of Bolivia's Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, was Minister of Government—responsible for overseeing the National Police—last September when the police brutally attacked a cross-country march against the planned highway. He subsequently resigned, but denied any responsibility for the events. Prosecutors recently excluded Llorenti from the government's ongoing investigation of the repression—a decision harshly criticized by Rolando Villena, Bolivia's human rights ombudsman, as contributing to a "climate of impunity." (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Opinión, Cochabamba, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, Sept. 4; NACLA Rebel Currents blog, Aug. 31)