from Weekly News Update on the Americas

During the week of Aug. 14, some 500 indigenous Guarani people began an occupation at the Parapeti station of the Yacuiba-Rio Grande gas pipeline (GASYRG) near Charagua, in the eastern Bolivian department of Santa Cruz, to demand that the Transierra company pay the Guarani people $9 million in exchange for allowing the pipeline to operate on their land. Transierra agreed in a 2005 accord to provide that amount to benefit the Guarani people; the company says the funding was to be distributed over a 20-year period, and it has so far provided $255,887.

Transierra is co-owned by the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, the Spanish-Argentine oil company Repsol and the French company Total. The protest is organized by the Assembly of the Guarani People (APG). On Aug. 19 the protesters seized a control station at the facility, but so far they are only maintaining a symbolic occupation and have not shut down production.

On Aug. 21, the APG met with Bolivian government authorities and proposed that Transierra pay $4.5 million by Aug. 25, with the rest of the money due in five years. After five hours of meetings, in which a Bolivian government commission met separately with the APG and the company, Transierra manager Marcos Beniccio announced he would discuss the APG’s demands with the firm’s shareholders and the World Bank, which is financing the pipeline.

On Aug. 22, two truckloads of activists arrived to reinforce the occupation, and the APG said it would continue to hold the Parapeti station until at least Aug. 25, when talks with Transierra and the government of leftist indigenous president Evo Morales Ayma were set to resume. (Europa Press, Aug. 22; AP, Reuters, Terra Brasil, Aug. 22)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 27


On Aug. 6, Bolivian president Evo Morales Ayma presided over a ceremony in the central plaza of the southern city of Sucre, Bolivia’s historic capital, marking the start of sessions for the Constituent Assembly elected on July 2. The Assembly will have the task of rewriting Bolivia’s Constitution over the next year.

“Our natural resources have been looted, they must never again be surrendered to the transnationals,” Morales told a crowd of thousands attending the event. “This assembly must have all the powers, it must even be above Evo Morales, because its mission is not to reform the Constitution but to re-found the country, overcoming centuries of discrimination against the indigenous people,” said Morales. “I will subordinate myself and fulfill what it says.”

A majority of the 255 members of the Constituent Assembly are indigenous, and the body’s president is Silvia Lazarte, a prominent Quechua campesina leader from the Chapare region of Cochabamba department. Addressing the crowd, Lazarte noted the double discrimination faced by indigenous women, even within their own social organizations. (AP, Aug. 6) Lazarte was among some 100 leaders arrested in a police raid on campesino coca growers (cocaleros) on Jan. 19, 2002; she was one of the last two leaders released on bond a month later, on Feb. 20. The case apparently never went to trial. (AP, July 31)

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera laid out four challenges facing the Assembly: overcome political inequality to build a multicultural state; develop a community-based development model; modify the “economic structure” which has forced Bolivia to rely on exporting raw materials; and preserve the unity of the country while granting greater autonomy to each of its nine regions. (AP, Aug. 6)

Morales’ party, the Movement to Socialism (MAS), has 137 of the 255 seats in the Constituent Assembly; according to the rules laid out in the law convening the Assembly, two thirds—170 votes—are needed to approve changes to the Constitution. The second-largest bloc in the Assembly is the right-wing Social Democratic Power (Podemos) coalition, with 60 seats. Morales has said that the MAS will negotiate with other groups, but not with Podemos. The Constitution the Assembly drafts will have to be approved by voters in a referendum. (El Nuevo Herald, Aug. 5 from EFE)

Among the throngs attending the inaugural event were thousands of representatives of indigenous and campesino organizations from around the country who held their own parallel grassroots assembly in Sucre on Aug. 4, followed by a march on Aug. 5 to hand in their proposal to the Constituent Assembly. The groups included the Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB), the Chiquitana Indigenous Organization (OICH), the Coordinating Committee of Ethnic Peoples of Santa Cruz (CEPESC), the Bartolina Sisa National Federation of Bolivian Campesina Women (FNMCB-BS), the Landless Movement (MST) and the Assembly of the Guarani People, among others. (Bolivia Indymedia, Aug. 5; La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 5)

On Aug. 2, Morales handed over 50 tractors from Venezuela and more than 2,000 land titles at a ceremony in the village of Ucurena, in Cochabamba department, where Bolivia’s first agrarian reform decree was signed on Aug. 2, 1953. Thousands of campesinos attended the event marking the start of the Morales government’s “agrarian revolution.” Morales said campesino organizations have suggested shutting down Bolivia’s Congress, which on July 31 failed to accelerate legislation on the confiscation of unproductive privately held agricultural land. “I’m not asking to close Congress, but Congress must respond to the demands of the campesino movement,” Morales warned. (AP, Aug. 2; LJ, Aug. 1) Morales held a similar ceremony on June 3 in the city of Santa Cruz to announce the land reform program.

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 8


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also:

WW4 REPORT #123, July 2006

“Bolivia: conspiracy against constitutional reform?”
WW4 REPORT, Aug. 14


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Sept. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution