Bolivia: indigenous dissident cleared of charges

After three years of investigation, Bolivia's Public Ministry reached a decision on March 15 not to bring criminal charges against Adolfo Chávez, the former leader of the Confederation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian Oriente (CIDOB), and 21 others who were linked to a corruption scandal in a case many saw as politically motivated. Chávez and the others were accused of misappropriating monies made available through the government's Development Fund for Original Indigenous Peoples and Campesino Communities (FONDIOC). But he claimed he was targeted for his opposition to the government's development plans for the Isiboro Secure Inidgenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), in the eastern rainforest.

Bolivia: government divided on Amazon road project

Bolivia's Vice-Minister of Government Alfredo Rada was asked by a reporter from TV show "Levántate Bolivia" June 25 how he viewed the controversial highway that would cut through the Isiboro Secure Inidgenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) in light of Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the dangers of climate change. Implicitly referencing the repression of protests against the highway in 2011, which resulted in suspension of the project, Rada responded: "At the time I considered, and still consider, that TIPNIS has been one of the errors of the government." (ANF, June 25; ENS, June 18) Just weeks earlier, President Evo Morales made a statement indicating that the highway project would be revived. At a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of founding of Villa Tunari municipality, Cochabamba, which would be a hub on the new highway, Morales said: "This road, compañeros, will be realized." Alluding to the neighboring jungle department of Beni as a stronghold of the right-wing opposition, he added: "First, it will liberate Beni. Second, it will bring greater integration between the departments, we are convinced of this." He claimed the project has the support of the governments of Cochabamba and Beni departments, both now controlled by Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). (La Razón, June 25)

Bolivia: activists disrupt Human Rights Day confab

A group of Bolivian activists, led by human rights campaigner Olga Flores, disrupted the proceedings at the Central Bank auditorium in La Paz Dec. 10, where official commemorations were underway for International Human Rights Day. Protesters shouted out demands that Sacha Llorenti step down as Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, accusing him of having ordered repression of indigenous protesters at the town of Chaparina when he was interior minister in September 2011. The protesters at Chaparina were holding a cross-country march in defense of the TIPNIS, a national park and indigenous reserve that the government of President Evo Morales sought to build a highway through. "This act is a farse," Flores said at the ceremony. "In Bolivia, human rights are not respected." Teresa Zubieta, president of La Paz section of the official Permanent Assembly of Human Rigths, who had been presiding at the event, responded by accusing Flores of being in league with the Movimiento Sin Miedo, a right-wing opposition group. (Erbol, Eju!, Dec. 11; ANF, Dec. 10)

Bolivia: wanted rainforest defenders hold out

Members of the Human Rights Commission of Bolivia's lower-house Chamber of Deputies announced Aug. 30 that they will visit three indigenous leaders from the contested Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), who for weeks have refused to leave the remote rainforest reserve to avoid being arrested by National Police troops. Leaders Fernando Vargas, Adolfo Chávez and Pedro Nuny have been maintaining a vigil at the office of the TIPNIS Subcentral of the Indigenous Council of the South (CONISUR) since orders were issued for their arrest on charges related to a supposed attack on a rival CONISUR leader, Gumercindo Pradel. The three wanted leaders charge the government of President Evo Morales with attempting to divide the organization to undermine resistance to a planned highway through the reserve. (ANF, Aug. 30; NACLA, Aug. 27)

Bolivia: indigenous demand autonomy from state

Bolivia's Aymara indigenous alliance CONAMAQ issued an open letter Jan. 27 to President Evo Morales, the official rights watchdog Defensoría del Pueblo, and the independent Permanent Human Rights Association of Bolivia (APDHB),  charging that the ruling Movement to Socialism-Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MAS-IPSP) is seeking to divide their organization. The statement warned of the possibility for violence at CONAMAQ's upcoming Mara Tantachawi, or annual gathering. "The MAS-IPSP government of Evo Morales...in the different suyus [regions] is organizing and mobilizing groups of confrontation led by ex-authorities suspended by CONAMAQ...to sabotage [hacer fracasar] this event and take over by force the CONAMAQ council for political ends," the statement reads.

Bolivia: progress seen in coca policy

Total area planted with coca in Bolivia dropped by up to 13% last year, according to separate reports by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Bolivia stepped up efforts to eradicate unauthorized coca plantings, and reported an increase in seizures of cocaine and cocaine base—even as the Evo Morales government expanded areas where coca can be grown legally. "It's fascinating to look at a country that kicked out the United States ambassador and the DEA, and the expectation on the part of the United States is that drug war efforts would fall apart," Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, told the New York Times. Instead, she said, Bolivia's approach is "showing results." 

Aymara dissident denounces Evo Morales in Geneva

Rafael Arcangel Quispe Flores, leader of the Bolivian Aymara organization CONAMAQ this month denounced President Evo Morales before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and also before the seat in that city of the International Labor Organization (ILO), whose convention 169 outlines the responsibilities of states to indigenous peoples. Quispe especially stressed the situation at the TIPNIS indigenous reserve on the edge of Bolivia's Amazon, threatened by a pending road project. (De-Bolivia, Dec. 5)

Bolivia: dissent over indigenous identity in census

Bolivia's President Evo Morales sparked controvery by exlcuding the word mestizo, or mixed-race, as a choice for ethnic identification in the national census now underway—the country's first since 2001. Morales said that including the choice would only serve to "divide Bolivia," and pointed out that it had never been used in any previous census. But this census for the first time offers citizens the option of declaring themselves members of one of 40 ethnic groups. Opponents charge that Morales, who has built his political program around indigenous identity, is hoping to use the census results to consolidate power. "I'm not Aymara, I'm not Quechua I'm a mestizo," read graffiti painted on walls around La Paz.

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