TIPNIS Corregidors plan national march, local resistance

Update, 29 March: My full English translation of Resolution 1 now appears after the jump.

The traditional leadership of 40 or 41 communities in the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) met this past weekend in Gundonovia, a community inside TIPNIS. With their offer to Evo Morales to attend and negotiate rejected, the meeting focused on their strategy to respond to the after-the-fact consultation law (Law 222) passed in January.

Two key decisions emerged from this weekend. First, TIPNIS communities will participate in a Ninth National Indigenous March, under the leadership of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, which is set for April 20, and whose starting point and route will be chosen in a CIDOB meeting on March 25–26. Second, the TIPNIS communities are essentially declaring Law 222 null and void for being passed without their consultation, for violating the constitution, and being destructive to their rights. Or, in the words of their resolution:

To reject Law 222 and to emphatically reject its implementation, for being a norm that was not consulted and that is illegal and unconstitutional, which violates the rights of indigenous peoples, the territorial and collective rights established in various national and international norms that form part of the Constitutionality Block established in the [Bolivian] Political Constitution of the State.

Further, the assembled indigenous communities rejected both the new government military presence in TIPNIS and the strategy of official gift-giving that seems to be a campaign to approve the road. They contrast the process with the national and international norm of free, prior, and informed consent:

That this law [222] was not previously consulted with the three peoples who inhabit TIPNIS; is not free, but rather is being imposed by force; is not informed, insofar as there is manipulation of information concerning the reach and effects of this law, which are hidden by the state; and that same state never shared with us all the information about this project, and does not deal in good faith because the State seeks to include persons who have renounced their rights to decide over [the fate of] the lands collectively titled to the communities of TIPNIS, and finally does not seek any accord or consent.

Most significantly, they formalized a pledge to resist the law’s implementation from their communities, warning that “vessels and means of transport … will be subject to decommissioning and consequent destruction by the corregidors and communal authorities.”

The meeting was slightly smaller than expected for two reasons: difficulties in representatives of 15 communities arriving due to government restrictions on boat fuel (the government classifies it as a “cocaine precursor” and obstructed sale) and other unspecified pressures from the government. TIPNIS leaders expect these fifteen communities to fully participate in the march and local resistance. The remaining eight communities seem on the verge of ending collective land rights, dividing up their territory, and joining the cocalero-union affiliated communities in CONISUR.

full resolutions (in Spanish) after the jump

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Thursday’s march celebrates Water War, kicks off International Water Fair

Many here in Cochabamba are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Water War, a series of protests against the newly-privatized water utility and its French and American owners in 2000. Back then, privatization was taken on faith as an all-purpose solution by Bolivia’s national government. Rate payers, who saw 40 to 200% hikes in their bills, and water supply committees that coordinate local water systems (which the new corporation claimed as its own) disagreed, strongly. Sectoral protests found a new form, a cross-movement coordinadora that brought them together, and caught fire. Two major confrontations in February and then April 2000 saw protesters take over the central streets of Bolivia’s third largest city. In Bolivia, the Water War came towards the beginning of a series of massive mobilizations that redefined politics. It was the first globally visible reversal of neoliberal policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank (the package of such policies, including privatization and “fast money” or easily reversible foreign investment, was called the Washington Consensus).

Thousands march in Cochabamba ten years after Water War

So, on Wednesday a march was held to celebrate the anniversary and to inaugurate a three-day conference on water rights activism globally. At the Factory Worker’s Union complex, speakers from four continents talked about the inspiration that the water war provided for their movements, doing such things as mobilizing against the privatization of municipal water systems in Italy, advancing a national referendum on public water in Uruguay, and protecting irreplaceable (in human lifetimes) aquifers from bottled water manufacturers in Maine.

More photos from Wednesday are on flickr here.