On February 9, Bolivia’s Plurinational Assembly passed a controversial new law mandating a consultation process for indigenous communities in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), to redetermine the fate of a government-proposed highway that would bisect the reserve. The next chapter of the TIPNIS conflict is likely to be more contentious than ever.
Bolivia’s controversy over the recently-cancelled TIPNIS highway intensified this week, as the CONISUR counter-march arrived to La Paz. The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government renewed its campaign for a formal consulta process to redetermine the fate of the road, fanning the flames of popular discontent and conflict between indigenous sectors.
Less than three months ago, indigenous protesters forced Bolivian president Evo Morales to sign a law cancelling the government’s proposed highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS). Now, with a pro-highway counter-march and a legislative strategy to amend or bypass the law, the controversial road project may be on the verge of resurrection.
Fifty-six judges of Bolivia's top courts, elected in a historic but controversial popular vote last October, were sworn in by President Evo Morales on January 3. The new judges, 50% women and 40% indigenous, have changed the face of Bolivian justice, but confront significant challenges of legitimacy and obstacles to implementing judicial reform.
Along with the Arab Spring, the indignados movement of Spain, and Occupy Wall Street, Latin America also played a role in the global tumult in 2011. Over the last year diverse grassroots movements in Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru have been raising questions and challenging the existent order.
This week, Bolivian government officials and lowland indigenous leaders agreed on a new regulation defining the “untouchable” character of the TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory. But six weeks after pressure from indigenous protesters forced President Evo Morales to cancel the TIPNIS highway, the conflict shows no signs of abating.
The new "framework agreement" restoring diplomatic ties between Bolivia and the United States represents a significant political achievement for Bolivia, as well as a victory for Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca that could help to strengthen Bolivia's "process of change."
In October, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a new law banning construction of the controversial TIPNIS highway. The law is now provoking a new round of conflicts between lowland indigenous groups and the Bolivian government, over what it means for the reserve to be declared an "untouchable" ecological zone.
The U.S. government and its right-wing allies are using human rights as a political weapon to discredit those governments in the region that have most aggressively undermined U.S. hegemony. This article was originally published as the introduction to the September/October 2011 issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas.