A recent protest in Washington, D.C. against the TIPNIS highway in Bolivia serves as a reminder of how conservative forces are exploiting the TIPNIS conflict to undermine President Evo Morales’s leftist government. For the most part, though, the anti-highway movement is not so much against the government as it is for a recovery and revitalization of Bolivia’s “process of change.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales has argued that the United States uses the drug war to advance its own political interests and discredit political opponents. But does the Bolivian Government do the same?
Sunday’s brutal repression by federal police of lowland indigenous marchers protesting the TIPNIS highway has sparked widespread public outrage in Bolivia, while the MAS government’s response raises more questions than answers. With conservative opponents of Evo Morales also seeking to exploit the crisis, it's a critical moment for Bolivia's process of change.
After a week of polarizing rhetoric and escalating conflict, the government and indigenous groups protesting construction of the TIPNIS highway have begun negotiations. While the outcome of the process is uncertain, it’s even less clear whether the fractured political alliance between President Evo Morales and the indigenous groups that helped bring him to power can be repaired.
It’s been a busy week in Bolivia, with major mobilizations by indigenous peoples in the Amazon marching against the TIPNIS highway, and by civic groups in Potosí and neighborhood organizations in El Alto who are demanding more, not less, development.
Next Monday, representatives of three indigenous groups and their supporters will begin a 375-mile trek from the Bolivian lowlands to the capital of La Paz, to protest the government’s plan to build a highway through their ancestral homeland. The march opens a new chapter in the increasingly conflictive relationship between leftist president Evo Morales and the social movements that brought him to power, and could be another defining moment for the MAS government.