As the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC) opened April 19 at Tiquipaya, outside the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba, a controversy has emerged over an “eighteenth table” being demanded by Aymara indigenous leaders. While the CMPCC officially has 17 “tables” or working groups, dealing with issues such as indigenous rights and forestry, dissident Aymara leaders say they will hold a “Table 18” on social conflicts related to these questions. Bolivian Environmental Vice-minister Juan Pablo Ramos dismissed the demand. “In reality, there is no Table 18,” he said, asserting that since it proposes discussion of Bolivia’s “internal problems,” it is therefore not appropriate to an international forum.
But Rafael Quispe, leader of the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Cullasuyu (CONAMAQ), countered: “Table 18 is going ahead whether the government likes it or not, and it does not only deal with Bolivia’s problems.” He said the table would be held on the streets of Tiquipaya outside the official summit if it isn’t allowed in. Refering to Bolivia’s indigenous-led government, he said: “We are not opposed to the process of change, nor are we against the forum, but it is important to deal with the problems in our own house.”
CONAMAQ, a body of traditional leaders (mallkus) representing collective land-holdings (ayllus) and regions (markas) from throughout the Aymara realm (Cullasuyu), is an affiliate of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI). (Erbol, April 18)