Climate Change & Indigenous Struggle

by Bill Weinberg, NACLA Report on the Americas

The stark and arid Bolivian Altilpano is one of the regions of our planet most susceptible to the impacts of climate change—ominous portents can already be seen. Yet, as South America’s poorest country, Bolivia is among the least prepared on Earth to meet these challenges.

Last year, water levels in Lake Titicaca—upon which some 2.6 million people depend for their sustenance—dropped 81 centimeters (2.6 feet). The Lake Titicaca Authority, jointly overseen by the governments of Bolivia and Peru, found that the lake is at its lowest level since 1949. Water levels in the lake fluctuate due to El Niño weather phenomena—but this time it looks uncertain that Titicaca will recover. Over the past four years, seasonal rainfall and the flow into Titicaca from feeder rivers was insufficient to compensate for evaporation and drainage. The authority says 95% of the lake’s inflow is being lost.

Bolivia’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Service notes that the region’s rainy season has been reduced from six to three months in recent years. The drought has prompted water rationing in some Altiplano towns and cities.

Last year also saw the 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya glacier overlooking La Paz vanish—six years earlier than scientists predicted—threatening water supplies to the Bolivian capital. The World Bank warns that water could be diminished imminently to the 2 million people in La Paz and neighboring El Alto. Chacaltaya—”bridge of ice” in the Aymara language—became barren for the first time as the Southern Hemisphere’s 2009 summer came on. The World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich had forecast its disappearance for 2015.

In a front-page article timed to coincide with the United Nations’ Copenhagen climate summit last December, “In Bolivia, Water and Ice Tell A Story of Changing Climate,” the New York Times noted growing water shortages in El Alto and La Paz—disproportionately affecting low-income areas, despite what the Times called the government’s “socialist rhetoric.”

The reality that—locally and globally—the poor bear a disproportionate risk from climate change was one that Bolivia’s President Evo Morales sought to address when he called the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Earth (CMPCC), held in Cochabamba from April 19-22. Conceived as an alternative to the moribund UN process that failed to produce a binding treaty at Copenhagen, the CMPCC sought to bring governments and civil society groups together to work to address climate change. The conference explicitly looked to indigenous cultures and movements for wisdom and leadership on the question.

Some 30,000 people from over 150 countries attended the Cochabamba summit, Morales jointly presiding with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. The “People’s Accord” produced by the CMPCC, presented by Morales to the UN after the summit, calls for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by developing countries over the next seven years. It demands that the UN adopt a “Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth”; that the industrialized nations provide annual financing equivalent to 6% of their GDP to confront climate change in the developing world; and that an International Tribunal on Environmental and Climate Justice be created, with its seat in Bolivia. The summit called for a new global organization to press for these demands, tentatively dubbed the World Movement for Mother Earth—by its Spanish acronym, MAMA-Tierra.

These resolutions emerged from the CMPCC’s 17 “tables,” or working groups, organized around themes such as “Structural Causes,” “Indigenous Peoples.” and “Rights of Mother Earth.” Representatives of the working groups submitted their resolutions to the assembled government officials at a joint meeting at the Hotel Regina, in the Cochabamba suburb of Tiquipaya, on the morning of Earth Day, April 22. They were then officially adopted.

President Morales told the press at Tiquipaya that he would demand the resolutions be endorsed at the upcoming UN climate summit in CancĂşn, Mexico, and warned that he would otherwise seek redress at the International Court of Justice.

Table 18: Intransigent Voice of the “Andean Cosmo-Vision”
As the CMPCC opened April 19 at Tiquipaya, a controversy emerged over an “18th table” demanded by Aymara indigenous leaders, on social conflicts related to climate change. Bolivian Environmental Vice-minister Juan Pablo Ramos dismissed the demand. “In reality, there is no Table 18,” he said, asserting that since it proposed discussion of Bolivia’s “internal problems,” it was 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 wasn’t allowed in. Refering to Bolivia’s 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.”

As the CMPCC convened for a second day April 20, Table 18 opened. Barred from the official summit grounds on the Tiquipaya campus of the University del Valle, Aymara elders convened the forum in a Brazilian restaurant just off the campus.

Cleared of tables to make room for rows of chairs, the premises filled with pungent smoke as incense and coca leaves were ritually burned for the opening ceremony. With many drawn by the controversy, Table 18 was well-attended—despite a contingent of UTOP, the national police anti-riot force, stationed at the restaurant’s door.

Officially dubbed the table on “Collective Rights and the Rights of Mother Earth,” the panel credited the Evo Morales government with recognizing the collective rights of Bolivia’s “original nations,” Afro-Bolivians and “inter-cultural communities” (mestizos). But panelist Pablo Regalsky of the Andean Center for Communication and Development (CENDA) stated: “Here in Bolivia, we are building a new model—in practice, not theory—so we have to discuss the problems that arise in the creation of this new model.” He warned that there are some in the Morales government—especially the Finance Ministry—who seek a “forced march to industrialization.”

Despite “the anti-capitalist discourse of Brother Evo,” he charged that “foreign capital” still often plays a decisive role in Bolivia’s development policies. He cited moves towards reviving plans for an inter-oceanic transport link through Bolivia, and mineral and gas exploitation on indigenous lands. Refuting government charges that Table 18 was only dealing with internal Bolivian issues, Regalsky said, “These questions also have implications for Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru. And they have implications for the rights guaranteed by the Bolivian constitution.”

Grievances aired by Aymara and Quechua leaders at Table 18 centered on ecological impacts of mineral projects, including the Japanese-owned San CristĂłbal mine in southern PotosĂ­ department and the state-owned Corocoro mine in La Paz department.

Figures in the Bolivian government attempted to discredit Table 18, with Chancellor David Choquehuanca unsubtly stating that any effort to divide the summit is the work of “opponents and capitalists.”

Yet, when Norma Pierola, a national legislator from Cochabamba with the right-opposition National Convergence party, attempted to enter the restaurant to address Table 18 (on environmental concerns, she said), her way was blocked by attendees who barred the entrance with their bodies, chanting “¡No pasará!” (she shall not pass).

When she finally gave up and turned away, Pierola spoke to a clatch of reporters outside the restaurant, railing against the supposed environmental impacts of coca-growing, and calling for a crackdown on the cocaleros.

At the end of the CMPCC’s third day, the Aymara elders who convened the dissident table held a final meeting, where CONAMAQ’s Rafael Quispe announced that President Morales had agreed to meet with the Table 18 leaders and hear their demands. Quispe said the Table 18 representatives would demand “the expulsion of all extractive resource industries” from Bolivia, and the adoption of a new development model based on the “Andean cosmo-vision” of ayllus and local self-sufficiency.

Rafael Quispe on Evo Morales: “neoliberal, capitalist”
Table 18’s final resolution was handed in to Morales with the “official” resolutions on the morning of Earth Day—but not formally adopted by the CMPCC, of course. Morales, it must be noted, really had no choice other than to meet with Quispe, because the CONAMAQ leader had also convened the “official” Table 3 on the Rights of Mother Earth.

CONAMAQ is a body of traditional leaders (mallkus) representing collective land-holdings (ayllus) and regions (markas) from throughout the Aymara realm (Cullasuyu). It is based among several villages in the Aymara heartland of La Paz department. Quispe says it was founded 1997 “to reconstitute Collasuyu, to work for the restitution of its authorities.”

CONAMAQ has been working to re-instate traditional indigenous government—known as “usos y custumbres””—in the hamlets or ayllus of Pacajes province in La Paz department. Using its original indigenous name, Quispe calls the province Suyu Pacajaqi—the suyu being a region made of markas, or regional clusters of autonomous ayllus. Suyu Pacajaqi, in CONAMAQ’s vision, is in turn part of Cullasuyu, which covers most of the Altiplano.

“When the Spaniards arrived 500 years ago, they began to exterminate our indigenous culture, our structures of government,” Quispe says. “And since 1997, we have been in the process of reconstituting our traditional authorities.”

Quispe hopes one day this system will cross national borders, uniting ayllus and markas in Peru, Chile and Ecuador. “Collasuyu was one state within Tawantinsuyu, a great federation made up of four federations of nationalities,” he says. “This is the system that we are in the process of reconstituting.”

Interviewed during a break in the proceedings at Tiquipaya, Quispe insisted that Table 18 was relevant to the Cochabamba summit.

“To speak of the rights of Mother Earth isn’t just a discourse. To speak of protecting the Mother Earth is to speak of extractive industries like petroleum and mining. These are the industries that are harming the Mother Earth. And it cannot be outside the working tables to speak of socio-environmental conflicts related to these industries.”

For Quispe, Morales’ program hasn’t gone far enough. “Today in Bolivia, 80% of state revenues are derived from extractive industries like petroleum and mining—as in much of the rest of Latin America. What is causing global warming are the greenhouse gases that come from these same fossils such as petroleum. How can we not speak of social conflicts related to their extraction?”

But Evo’s project is to use these resources to lift Bolivia out of poverty. What is the alternative?

“Capitalism or socialism is extractive, consumerist, developmentalist,” Quispe replies. “In this sense, they are the same. We have to speak of a new model of development, an alternative to this system. Because both capitalism and socialism will go on changing the planet. And the development model of the indigenous peoples is the allyu, the communitarian development model.”

“We original indigenous peoples for thousands and thousands and thousands of years have been living in equilibrium and respect for our Pachamama, from whom we emerged,” he adds, using the word for Quechua earth goddess.

The nation needs electricity, transportation, roads, education, I persist. How can you have this without resource exploitation?

“Wind energy is clean technology. This electricity can power transportation too. But petroleum exploitation and projects like the inter-oceanic corridor do not correspond to the needs of the indigenous peoples.”

What is your attitude towards Evo Morales?

“We support the process of change, and CONAMAQ is a protagonist, but we do not participate in the government. We don’t make deals, we don’t support candidates—absolutely nothing.

“And this systematic violation of the rights of the peoples and of the Pachamama shows that there is something wrong with the process. In these last elections, I had to say, ‘Evo, you are wrong. What you are saying is pure talk. You are not complying with your own discourse.’ And therefore, I didn’t vote.”

And when Evo first won the presidency in 2005?

“We thought that he represented hope, we identified with him. He won, we gave him all the power. But the process has given us nothing. It has been all discourse, no application. He speaks of the Mother Earth, and he is the foremost violator of the Mother Earth.”

What is Quispe’s response to the charge that he is aiding the right opposition?

“When he doesn’t have responses, his only response is ‘you are a rightist, you are a capitalist.’ It is his only response—to stigmatize. But we in CONAMAQ have the moral authority to say, ‘You are wrong, Brother Evo Morales.'”

Quispe’s words are even stronger when we speak a week later at the CONAMAQ office in La Paz. Morales hadn’t shown up for a follow-up meeting in the capital to discuss Table 18’s demands, he tells me. “There’s still no response,” Quispe says. “There’s just a lot of bureaucracy.”

Now, he openly accuses Morales of hypocrisy. “The government say ‘capitalism or pachamama.’ But this government is neoliberal and capitalist. It’s all a political show. Evo’s election was a step. But the marches, strikes, blockades that brought him to power are continuing.”

Corporate Power and PotosĂ­’s Disappearing Waters
Ironically, three days before the Cochabamba summit opened, a group of some 900 local comunarios (communal peasants) invaded the operations area of San Cristobal Mining Company in Nor LĂ­pez province, PotosĂ­ department, burning the company’s office and overturning two rail-wagons loaded with some 20 tons each of lead, silver and zinc ore. The comunarios were protesting the contamination of local water sources by the mining operations, while the company uses 50,000 cubic meters of water every day free of charge. Comunario leader Mario Mamani said the protesters are demanding that company, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Sumitomo, pay local communities directly for use of the water, as well as paying for electrification projects. They pledged to continue their occupation, and overturn another wagon every five hours until their demands were met.

The comunarios said they had been petitioning authorities for months to no avail. For five days before invading San Cristobal’s installation, they had been peacefully blocking the border crossing with Chile at Avaroa. Interior Vice-Minister Gustavo Torrico said dialogue had been established with the protesters via the PotosĂ­ prefectural authorities—but that due to the “intransigence of the comunarios, we cannot rule out the use of public force.”

Mining Minister JosĂ© Pimentel admitted that the mine’s contract was granted under “neoliberal laws”—a reference to the 1997 mineral code—but said that since the law had not been amended, it must be honored.

A new mineral law then being prepared mandates that private interests develop leases instead of sitting on them—but in other circumstances, the leases will remain in private corporate hands.

After occupying the mine, the rebel comunarios set up barricades on the major rail line from their remote desert region to the Chilean border. It wasn’t until the summit was well underway that they agreed to lift the barricades, on a pledge of dialogue.

The mine occupation was a wildcat action not endorsed by the Sole Regional Federation of Campesino Workers of the Southern Altiplano (FRUTCAS). Francisco Quisbert, a former FRUTCAS president, attended Table 18. He’s from Calcha K, 30 kilometers from San CristĂłbal, a key community behind the direct action. After the summit, a long, frigid overnight bus ride on sporadically paved roads brought me to Uyuni, on the edge of the desert, where I met with Quisbert. He approached me amiably on an old bicycle with no breaks.

Quisbert doesn’t endorse the wildcat action, but understands what provoked it. The Quechua campesinos are increasingly leaving the area because of climate change, he believes. After three years of failed rains, there is no quinoa, and the llamas are thinning. The Cochabamba summit was held at quinoa harvest time, just after the rainy season—and there was no crop to harvest, nor had there been rain.

“The people are obligated to migrate to Argentina, Chile,” Quisbert says. “Some local people work in the mine, but it is very mechanized and can’t provide for all the communities.”

Quisbert acknowledges political factors in the agricultural crisis in northern PotosĂ­. “There is no government presence here,” he says. “We have been waiting years for irrigation. Now we work with artisanal canals”—meaning those made with local technology, as best they can.

What water exists is at risk. Local lakes are contaminated with arsenic and other mine waste, from subterranean movement of water, he says. New roads and explosions at the mine site mean more dust in the air, affecting crops.

During Bolivia’s constituent assembly in 2006, FRUTCAS proposed a constitutional provision that 10% of all mineral investment go to environmental remediation. It was not accepted.

But there is no getting around the water shortage. “There has been three years of almost no rain,” Quisbert says. “Some people blame the mine, but I think it is global warming. It’s a big doubt.”

Whether the mine’s consumption of water is responsible for local aridity is hotly contested. The mine’s own study says no; the deep, heavily mineralized water the mine uses is unfit for human consumption or agriculture. Nor does it affect the fresh-water aquifers that lie above. The government accepts these findings.

FRUTCAS does not. After fruitless meetings with the mine in 2006, FRUTCAS and the municipality of Colcha K, with aid from CENDA and other NGOs, contracted their own hydrological study—which reached opposite conclusions.

FRUTCAS, formed a generation ago to pressure for titling of collective lands, is neutral on the mine occupation. PorfĂ­rio Cruz, the current director, sits in his office on the dusty outskirts of Uyuni under a large portrait of Evo Morales. On the wall a poster from the group CENDA reads in Quechua: “¡Capitalistas Pachamamata Kankapuchkaku!” Below is the Spanish translation: “Capitalismo está liquidando al planeta y la humanidad.” Capitalism is killing Mother Earth and humanity.

At odds with the government on the San CriistĂłbal issue, Cruz still has faith in Evo Morales. He shows me correspondence from the Environment and Mines Ministry on the local water issue, and says it is unprecedented that the government is hearing grievances. “This is the democracy that we are practicing in Bolivia thanks to the process of change that is taking place,” he says. “There is no need for blockades and occupations.”

Uyuni is full of Israeli and Japanese tourists, who contract Quechua guides in all-terrain vehicles to go out into the unearthly Salar de Uyuni—the vast salt flats at the heart of the desert. I contract one to go out to the desert pueblos of Colcha K and Calcha K.

The first stop is Nuevo San CristĂłbal, the canton that was relocated before the mine was opened in 2005 by Denver-based Apex Silver. The mine was bought by Sumitomo three years later, after the site of former pueblo had been turned into one of the world’s largest open-pit mines.

Like most local cantons, Nuevo San CristĂłbal has a Quechua corregidor, but it is clearly a company town. The most visible exponent of governance is the non-governmental San CristĂłbal Foundation, which is attempting to promote eco-tourism with a mountain bike rental initiative. The Foundation’s Ascensio Caso nearly portrays the settlement as a boom town.”There were 20 families in Viejo San Cristobal; now we have 500.” He says the quinoa and llamas are doing fine, and a 10-year development plan for the area will eventually include reforestation programs. He says 90% of Nuevo San CristĂłbal residents work in the mine. He says the mine uses “cutting edge” technology to control pollution.

Some 50 kilometers across the desert in the canton of Calcha K, it is clear there is widespread support for the direct action. Freddy Cayo, the corregidor, takes me out to the ayllu on edge of the pueblo, traditionally full of quinoa ready for harvest this time of year. It is brown and barren. “This is our fourth year without a quinoa harvest,” Cayo says “The level of water is dropping in our wells since operations began at the mine. We demand nationalization of the mine.”

Unlike San Cristóbal, Calcha K is not on the electricity grid, and only received running water in recent years. The same is true of the municipal seat, Colcha K, my next stop. In his office in the pueblo’s adobe town hall, municipal officer Julio Huanca warns me that anger is rising.

“The people have always been so pacific here,” he says. “But they are tired of being ignored by the government—no roads, no development, no jobs. We are more economically linked to Chile than to Bolivia. And the mineral wealth of this region is contributing much to the national economy.”

Do you support the direct action?, I asked.

“As an institution, no,” he says, “But as people, yes.”

Huanca says the municipality has had dialogue with mine on issues of protecting local waters—to no avail. He charges that Huaylla Kjara, a desert lake that is Andean flamingo habitat, has been contaminated with mine wastes—and the mine has taken no responsibility. “Sooner or later the mine will leave, but we will always be here,” he says.

Although he does not speak of nationalization, Huanca supports the demand that the mine pay for water.

Sumitomo claims the mine only draws water from the Jaukihua micro-aquifer which represents only a minute part of the Salar de Uyuni watershed. Exploitation of these saline waters causes no type of regional impact, the company asserts. It also denies that mine waste is contaminating Huaylla Kjara, saying it is a “closed aquifer.”

Hydrological consultant Robert Moran, co-author of “Mining the Water,” the study commissioned by FRUTCAS, is dismissive of the company’s claims.

“I’ve seen the same situation all over the world,” he says. “The source of information is always the company itself, so they can make any claim they want. Its very facile to say its all salty, but that’s not true. We don’t have the data to answer the question, but they’re just making blanket statements. They haven’t dug the test wells to do the measurements.”

“Mining the Water” asserts that even if the mine is only extracting deep saline waters, it is almost certainly drawing down the fresh-water aquifers above. “They are clearly dropping water levels,” Moran charges. “If you’re a local farmer, you’re going to have to dig deeper wells, pay more money to pump it up, and find that it is degraded.”

He adds on a sarcastic note: “But the nice thing is there’s no data to back this up because the company wasn’t required to do the kind of studies they’d be required to do in the US or Canada or Western Europe.”

And the fact that government is backing the mine’s position? “The Bolivian government has an interest in having revenues come in from San CristĂłbal, so it doesn’t surprise me that the La Paz government would say that.”

Strategic Salt Flats
The remote desert of northern PotosĂ­ is emerging as a strategic resource zone for the Bolivian state. The government is embarking on a massive lithium development project in the Uyuni salt flats. A pilot plant is under construction at the southern end of the Salar for exploitation of what is expected to be one of the most critical substances of the 21st century. Lithium, the key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops, is also envisioned to power electric cars—giving the substance a “green” cachet.

The lithium exploitation will be under state control, and is explicitly aimed at advantageously positioning Bolivia on the global stage. At a ceremony marking the 199th anniversary of the Bolivian army last year, President Morales warned his armed forces that the US has military designs on his country’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth—especially singling out lithium.

The government also recently announced a preliminary study for a program of uranium exploration in the PotosĂ­ desert, and broached the possibility of uranium exports to Venezuela. The Bolivian Institute of Nuclear Technology, a moribund agency since its uranium processing plant in PotosĂ­ was closed 25 years ago, may be revived if the exploration program is successful.

The Canadian firm Mega Uranium—part of the U308 Corporation, with operations in Guyana, Colombia and Argentina—in association with Australia-based Intrepid Mines worked uranium exploration leases in Potosí in 2006, but never announced results.

As the uranium project was announced, Leonid Golubev, the Russian ambassador in La Paz, told the press the Moscow was prepared to provide aid for Bolivia “to begin to develop an atomic industry with peaceful ends.” As if anticipating the US reaction, he added that Russia would consider supplying Bolivia with missiles.

Climate Change, Indigenous Autonomy and the Resource Wars
Mario Katari is environmental director at YPFB, the Bolivian state hydrocarbon company. I ask him via e-mail how growing state control over hydrocarbon and mineral resources impacts global climate change. The hydrocarbons have been partially nationalized under Evo Morales, and this may be an advance for Bolivians. But carbon now under Bolivia’s earth will still be burned and released into atmosphere as greenhouse gases.

“The nationalization, as a method of recovering the property rights of the Bolivian state, does not imply change in technology,” Katari concedes. “If the environmental controls do not change and the consciousness does not change, it cannot be said that nationalization averts climate change.”

But he adds that the nationalization has coincided with a commitment to protect the environment. He notes that the new Hydrocarbon Law bans the use of flares to burn off excess gas. He also says there has been a “significant decrease in exploration and exploitation” since nationalization. However he also admits that the government policy is to “increase production and all activities related to the hydrocarbon cycle,” and that this could lead to “greater foci of greenhouse gas emissions if there isn’t a corresponding environmental control.”

His words on Table 18 are harsh. In an evident reference to Rafael Quispe, he says, “I consider that it was led by someone influenced by the first world and out of touch with the national reality.” He says that the demand to end all extractive activities in Bolivia would mean a “dramatic contraction in the national economy, with consequences that cannot be predicted.” He says this demand would only be acceptable “if the compensation Bolivia receives for putting an end to all extractive activities in the country is equivalent to or greater than the amount that would be received from these activities.”

He dismisses the talk of a nuclear plant as “no more than speculation, thanks to the ‘cost’ that this would mean for the country.” Evoking Iran, he cites a likely “economic blockade.”

Bolivia saw a wave of angry protests across the country in the aftermath of the Cochabamba summit. One was in the desert of PotosĂ­, where “Ayllus Guerreros”—warrior ayllus—lynched four police officers they accused of corruption. They claimed the right to do so under usos y costumbres, and threw up barricades to bar national police. They declared the local municipality of UncĂ­a a “red zone.”

In Cochabamba, factory workers went on hunger strike in protest of the 5% raise offered by the government. This would escalate to a national general strike by the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) after May Day. National police officers also staged public hunger strikes in a salary dispute with the government.

In El Alto, the sprawling working-class city on the plateau above La Paz, residents erected barricades on thoroughfares to demand better services.

In Las Yungas region of La Paz department, campesinos shut down the highway at Caranavi village with roadblocks, paralyzing all traffic for days, to demand the government build a citrus processing plant for their communities.

In eastern Santa Cruz department, squatters occupied lands controlled by sugar interests at San Aurelio.

Also in Santa Cruz department, pro-development residents at Puerto Suárez blocked the border with Brazil to demand that the government resolve its dispute with India’s Jindal Steel and allow the controversial iron mining project at El MutĂşn to go ahead.

On the right, opposition party supporters held hunger strikes and mock “crucifixions” over the assigning of seats in the new departmental assemblies following April elections. In La Paz, opposition protesters repeatedly clashed with police, who responded with tear gas.

Evo Morales, just before flying to New York to present the Cochabamba demands to the UN, spokes about the general strike: “This president will never take measures against workers, but workers also have to be rational for the sake of the country.” Again echoing the rhetoric employed against Table 18, he also questioned the motives of the workers: “Some sectors [of labor] appear to be infiltrated by the right that wants to confuse the workers.”

Similar charges were made in June, when the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB) launched a cross-country march on La Paz from the jungle department of Beni to demand greater powers of local rule than those allowed by the new autonomy law. Minister of Autonomy Carlos Romero warned CIDOB to “shake off” the interference of foreign-backed NGOs. The comment came as President Morales threatened to kick out USAID.

Despite such accusations, Francisco Quisbert defends the airing of concerns about San CristĂłbal at Cochabamba—and the ongoing indigenous and campesino protests over resource issues. “The international debate on climate change needs to be had, and it is good that our compañero Evo is doing this,” he says. “But in our own house, we are not guarding the environment. This is my difference with President Morales.”


This story first ran in the fall 2010 edition of NACLA Report on the Americas.


World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

From our Daily Report:

Afghan lithium bonanza bad break for Bolivia?
World War 4 Report, June 14, 2010

Evo Morales delivers Cochabamba climate summit resolutions to United Nations
World War 4 Report, May 10, 2010

See also:

From Copenhagen to Cochabamba to CancĂşn
by Karah Woodward, The Indypendent
World War 4 Report, June 2010

See related stories, this issue:

Latin American progressive governments still bet on “extractivismo”
by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero, Latin America Energy & Environment Monitor
World War 4 Report, January 2011

by Michelle Chen, ColorLines
World War 4 Report, January 2011

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, January 1, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution