Global Voices

Development at What Cost? New Conflict Over Bolivia’s TIPNIS Road

TIPNIS march arrives in La Paz in October 2011. By Szymon Kochański on flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A proposed road project in Bolivia that plans to cross right through the middle of Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) is once again generating conflict and protest. Indigenous organizations, TIPNIS inhabitants and their supporters began a new long march on April 27, 2012 from Trinidad to La Paz demanding an end to the road project.

Plans for the 306 kilometer road are the result of an $415 million agreement signed by the Presidents of Bolivia and Brazil in August 2009. The Brazilian company OAS was initially awarded a turnkey contract to build the road in 40 months with financing from the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES).

In October 2011, after a large march of indigenous peoples and protestors arrived in La Paz, President Evo Morales passed a bill declaring the TIPNIS “intangible” or “untouchable”, which was understood by environmental campaigners and indigenous organizations as the final word on the issue.

Global Voices

Bolivia: A Serious Bid to Lift UN Ban on the Coca Leaf?

Coca leaves on a table at a coca-growers' meeting. Image by jusada/Flickr.

Demonstrations and public acts, led by both coca growers and traders, took place on Monday, March 12, 2012, in many cities in Bolivia demanding the international depenalisation of the coca leaf.

Local media informed [es] that 40 thousand people were due to join “coca-chewing day” [referred to in Bolivia as acullicu orpijcheo].

These public events are part of the Bolivian government’s international strategy for depenalising the coca leaf, and took place at the same time that President Evo Morales, himself a former coca grower and union leader, was addressing the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, Austria three years after his last visit.

A Bolivian Seaside Drama

Building Bridges to the Sea? photo: Señor Hans, flickr

Earlier this week, Bolivia threatened to take Chile before an international court after Chile failed to respond to a deadline set for negotiations to settle a more than 100-year-old dispute between the two nations on questions of access to the Pacific Ocean.

Mr Morales was speaking on Bolivia’s “Day of the Sea”, the day when it commemorates its defeat by Chile in the 19th Century War of the Pacific: “Our fight for maritime re-vindication, which has marked our history for 132 years, must now include another element”, he said at the ceremony in La Paz. “We must go to international tribunals and organizations to demand free and sovereign access to the sea.”

Responding, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said that Santiago sees any negotiation on this matter with La Paz as a “serious obstacle” to their already strained relations. “Bolivia cannot expect a direct, frank and sincere dialogue while it simultaneously manifests its intention to go to international tribunals,” he said.