Demand the Bolivian government does not build a highway through the TIPNIS national park sign now

We urge you to reconsider the current planned route of the highway that means that it will run directly through the TIPNIS national park, wreaking havoc over the virtually untouched multiple fragile eco-systems. A study estimates that if the road is built it could lead to around 64\% of the national park being deforested within 18 years.

We urge you to enter into dialogue immediately with the indigenous movements CIDOB and CONAMAQ who are have been marching since 15 August in opposition to the construction of the highway through the TIPNIS national park.

There must be respect for the right of indigenous communities to be consulted. By not consulting the indigenous peoples living in the TIPNIS the Bolivian government has violated the Bolivian Constitution passed in 2009, ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The march against the highway is a legitimate cause. Therefore the Bolivian government should enter into dialogue with CIDOB and CONAMAQ instead of making unproven accusations against them.

Yours Sincerely,


............................................................................


Background Information

Why dont we want the highway to go through our territory? If the road goes through there it will mean that we disappear. We are defending our rights and identity as indigenous peoples, Fernando Vargas, leader of the indigenous peoples of the TIPNIS.

Oscar Salgado, La Paz
Friends of TIPNIS
29 August 2011

Bolivias first indigenous President Evo Morales is making a massive mistake. His government are determined to build a highway that would cut through the heart of an indigenous territory and a hugely bio-diverse national park without consulting local indigenous communities. A study estimates that if the road is built it could lead to around 64\% of the national park being deforested within 18 years (1).

Over 1,000 indigenous peoples have been marching since 15 August to stop the highway. Although lacking adequate medicines and supplies, they have already completed 50 out of 375 miles on their way from the Bolivian Amazon to the capital La Paz in punishing temperatures of over 30 degrees. They need your support now.

In 1990 the same indigenous social movements marched to defend their rights and ancestral territories. CIDOB and CONAMAQ, who represent all of Bolivias 36 indigenous nations, successfully pressured the government to establish the very national park and indigenous territory (known by its acronym TIPNIS) that is now under threat from the planned highway. Ironically, current President Evo Morales, whose government was elected by Bolivias indigenous majority population, was on that march. In 2009 President Morales officially gave the collective land title to the indigenous groups living in TIPNIS, covering 1,091,656 hectares.

Shamefully, by not consulting the indigenous peoples living in the TIPNIS the Bolivian government has violated the Constitution it passed in 2009 - which was heralded throughout the world for enshrining the rights of indigenous peoples. It has also violated International Labour Organisation Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both ratified by Bolivia.

The wrong route
This does not mean development for us Bertha Bejarano, President of Moxeсo people

CIDOB and CONAMAQ have made it clear they are not against the building of a highway. What they reject is the proposed route through the national park, which would damage the unique biodiversity of the TIPNIS and threaten the very existence of the indigenous communities living there.

The Bolivian government has to negotiate a difficult balance between exploiting the countrys natural resources to generate income which can be spent on improving living conditions, without harming the environment and contradicting its position on defending the rights of Mother Earth.

The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government led by President Morales claims that the objective of the planned route is to promote development in the region by linking up isolated communities and providing a faster road link for goods to be transported. However, these maps show that the road would actually bypass the majority of communities in TIPNIS who are located on the eastern border of the national park (2). (Maps http://www.flickr.com/photos/66870262@N05/).

Most shockingly of all, the current planned route of the highway means that it will run directly through the centre-west of the national park, wreaking havoc over the virtually untouched multiple fragile eco-systems. The question is: why does the highway have to go along this specific route?

Although the exact reasons have not been made public, there are several possible motivations which could be important. On 10 August the Minister of Hydrocarbons (oil and gas) confirmed there are potential oil reserves in TIPNIS. Another major factor could be pressure from coca growers (cocaleros) who would benefit from greater access to the area to grow coca (involving deforestation). Thousands of coca growers have already occupied a sizeable section in the south east of TIPNIS which has negatively affected the indigenous communities already living there (see maps). In the last few days it was revealed that President Morales promised lands inside TIPNIS to his supporters (4).

The conflict over TIPNIS is escalating and this is why the marchers need people outside Bolivia to pressure the government to change the planned route of the highway.
The government caused an international incident on 21 August by releasing logs of phone calls which key leaders on the march received from the United States Embassy - a move which has been heavily criticised for violating individual privacy. The government has also accused CIDOB of receiving funding from the United States. All of this is despite any clear proof the USA is behind the march. In addition, since the march started President Morales has frequently alleged that NGOs are orchestrating the march.

The aim of the governments claims is to de-legitimise the march and make it fail. These claims are not only extremely disrespectful to CIDOB and CONAMAQ, but are also hypocritical as the governments staunchest allies, the coca growers, have received funding from USAID. Between 1983 and 2008 USAID invested around US$250 million in projects in the area where coca growers are concentrated (5). Furthermore many government ministers previously worked for NGOs.

These accusations have been roundly rejected by CIDOB and CONAMAQ who maintain that they are committed to defending their rights and the ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples of the TIPNIS.

TAKE ACTION to demand the Bolivian government does not build the highway through the TIPNIS national park


More Information
The Yucarй, Chiman and Moxeсo indigenous communities live in TIPNIS, an estimated 12,000 people. These indigenous peoples have lived in the area for centuries.

The national park is a unique area of biodiversity with 402 species of flora and 714 species of fauna - including 470 types of birds, 39 species of reptiles, 188 species of water mammals such as an endangered pink dolphin (Photos http://www.isiborosecure.com/tipnisfauna.htm). The forests and jungles in the park regulate the local climate and water cycles.

The Confederation of Bolivian Indigenous Peoples (CIDOB represents 34 indigenous nations primarily in the Amazon stretching from the North West to the East of Bolivia). They have been joined by the social movement the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ - representing Aymara and Quechua peoples from the western highlands and central valleys).

The planned motorway that would go from near the city of Cochabamba in central Bolivia through the Amazonian jungle to the Beni region was approved in 2010 by the MAS government and is 80\% funded by the Brazilian government. It forms part of the IIRSA project strongly backed by Brazil, a system of hundreds of infrastructure projects to deepen integration within Latin America (6).

The government is also claiming that illegal logging is already taking place in TIPNIS. Whilst this is unconfirmed it is obviously worrying. However, the governments argument that building the highway would allow for greater control over this illegal logging does not stand up. The very reason the majority of the national park remains intact is precisely because loggers cannot get into the park because of the lack of roads.

References:
1. PIEB http://www.pieb.com.bo/sipieb_nota.php?idn=5541
2. Flickr with maps http://www.flickr.com/photos/66870262@N05/
3. La Razуn Newspaper 10/08/2011 http://www.la-razon.com/version.php?ArticleId=135420&EditionId=2617
4. Radio ErBol http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=2147483948751
5. Pбgina 7 newspaper http://www.paginasiete.bo/Generales/Imprimir.aspx?id=266460
6. Official IIRSA website http://www.iirsa.org/index01.asp?CodIdioma=ENG

Maps of TIPNIS and photos of the march: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66870262@N05/

Facebook campaign http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Defendamos-el-Tipnis-No-a-la-Carretera-Villa-Tunari-San-Ignacio-de-Moxos/147825578565137 (in Spanish).

Links:
TIPNIS campaign website http://www.isiborosecure.com/index.html (Spanish).
Blog on TIPNIS http://www.poreltipnis.blogspot.com/ (Spanish)

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Information

Rowena FischerBy:
City LifeIn:
Petition target:
President Evo Morales, Plurinational State of Bolivia

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