Indigenous Bolivian demonstrators protesting in La Paz about the plan to build the TIPNIS highway. Photo: Gaston Brito, REUTERS.
Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, announced he would call off a controversial highway construction project after nearly a thousand demonstrators from the Bolivian indigenous communities showed their opposition to the scheme.
The 185-mile (298-km) long Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos highway would cut the Isiboro Secure Indigenous National Park (TIPNIS) in the Amazon forest in half.
On Tuesday 27 September 2011 President Morales changed his initial proposal. He announced that he will submit the decision on whether to build the controversial road to a popular consultation. This would be run by the local authorities in the Beni and Cochabamba Departments.
President Morales said "The two beneficiary departments shall decide. In the meantime the project will be called off".
The indigenous groups who oppose the initiative are afraid that construction of the road would damage the local vegetation, wild animals and fresh water reserve. Hunting, fishing and fruit gathering is the main livelihood for the indigenous communities in the National Park.
However the indigenous people are continuing their march towards Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. "Today we have no guarantee", said a leader after the presidential resolution was announced. The march is 500 km from La Paz. The media have reported that over 40 people were injured during the police repression during the previous weekend.
Other social organizations have criticized this action by Bolivian government. A report by the Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development (Fobomade) says that the indigenous marchers have been harassed by the government in an effort to halt the demonstration.
The Bolivian Defense Minister, Cecilia Chacon, resigned because she disagreed with the repression ordered by Morales, which she said can neither be "defended nor justified".
Please send an e-mail to: President Juan Evo Morales Ayma and cc it to: Sra. Nilda Copa Condori, Minister of Justice.