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Bolivia’s Conamaq Indigenous Movement: “We will not sell ourselves to any government or political party”

By Pablo Peralta M. of Página SieteTranslation by Benjamin Dangl, May 26, 2014. Source: Source: Upside Down World


0-1-0-leyminera22Translator’s note: Bolivia’s Conamaq indigenous movement is currently a major grassroots critic of the policies of the Evo Morales government and its Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. Because of this critical stance, the government helped to violently oust the Conamaq from their offices in La Paz this past December, and create a parallel, pro-MAS Conamaq. Mama Nilda Rojas is a leader of the dissident, or organic, Conamaq, and is interviewed here by Pablo Peralta M. of Bolivia’s Página Sietenewspaper. While ex-Conamaq leader Rafael Quispe is seeking to run for president against Morales, the current Conamaq of Nilda Rojas rejects all political parties and alliances with any governments, and remains one of the few critical social movements outside the umbrella of the MAS party, along with a radical base of followers and a progressive vision for the country.

In this interview, Rojas mentions the MAS-supportedMining Law, which gives members of the mining industry the right to use public water for its water-intensive and toxic operation, while disregarding the rights of rural and farming communities to that same water. Furthermore, the law criminalizes protest against mining operations. Conamaq’s struggle is part of a Latin America-wide grassroots push not just against extractivism, but also for respecting the rights of communities in the cross hairs of extractivism to prior consultation, an end to the criminalization of protest against extractive industries, and for a diversification of the economy beyond just the export of raw materials. The Conamaq stands beside many regional movements advocating the development of an economy and politics which respects the environment and indigenous rights while providing support and empowerment for a majority of the population. Continue reading

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Miners just took 43 police officers hostage in Bolivia

Note: Ben Dangl is a dear friend of Global Justice Ecology Project.  He is currently in Bolivia, where he studies and writes about social movements.

-The GJEP Team

By Ben Dangl, April 3, 2014. Source: VICE

Photo:  Juan Adolfo Apaza

Photo: Juan Adolfo Apaza

On Monday night, outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia, a conflict between police and miners protesting a new mining law left two miners dead and 50 people injured. The miners died of bullet wounds to the head. Forty-three policemen were also taken prisoner by the miners. The miners wielded dynamite against the armed police forces, though it’s still unclear who provoked the fight.

Before taking hostages, the miners had organized roadblocks across the country against a new mining law that would give the administration of President Evo Morales oversight of private tin, silver, and zinc miners’ transactions with private or foreign companies. (The Bolivian government also owns enormous public mines, which would not be effected by this aspect of the law.) The Morales administration wants to maintain oversight of sales and mining development in the private sector in order ensure that the resources benefit the country, rather than simply enrich private and foreign investors. The miners protesting on Monday all work in the private sector and, curiously, aren’t part of a leftist attempt for collective control of their mines—they simply want the right to be able to sell the minerals they extract to any person or company they please.

Congressman José Antonio Yucra of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS, the party led by President Morales) explained to the press that “there is great interest in million-dollar contracts that the cooperativist [private miners] would have with foreign [companies]” if the government did not regulate the industry. But the fight over the mining law is part of a much wider conflict across the Andes and Latin America. Who profits from the extraction of natural resources? Who pays when mining or oil exploration harms the environment and local communities? To what extent are local communities consulted about resource extraction that destroys their land, water, and livelihoods? Despite leftist rhetoric about protecting the environment and working on behalf of the region’s downtrodden, the presidents of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, among others, are charging ahead with destructive mining, gas, and oil industrialization at a rapid pace.
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Are Brazil’s dams to blame for record floods in Bolivia?

By Emily Achtenberg, March 31, 2014. Source: NACLA

San Antonio Dam. Photo: La Razón

San Antonio Dam. Photo: La Razón

In recent months, Bolivia’s Amazonian region has experienced the most disastrous flooding of the past 100 years. In the Beni department, 7 of 8 provinces and 16 of 19 municipalities are under water, with 75,000 people (more than one-quarter of the population) affected. Economic losses from the death of 250,000 livestock heads and destruction of seasonal crop lands, estimated at $180 million, are mounting daily.

While seasonal flooding is common in Beni, experts agree that climate change has added a threatening new dimension to the cyclical pattern, bringing record rainfall to most of Bolivia this year. Deforestation, exploitation of cultivable land, and loss of infrastructure through the breakup of traditional communities are other factors contributing to soil erosion and increased vulnerability to flooding.

In the past weeks, attention has focused on the role played by two recently-inaugurated Brazilian mega-dams—the Jirau and the San Antonio—in Bolivia’s floods. Located on the Madeira River, the largest tributary of the Amazon which receives its waters from rivers in Bolivia and Peru, the dams are just 50 and 110 miles, respectively, from Brazil’s Bolivian border. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Hydroelectric dams, Latin America-Caribbean, Water

Managing Bolivian capitalism

Note: ’21st century socialism’, brought to you by the extractive industries…

-The GJEP Team

By Jeffery R. Webber. Source: Jacobin Magazine

Image: Jacobin Magazine

Image: Jacobin Magazine

Internationally, capitalism is in crisis. But in Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, it’s being managed with some success by the government of Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, now three-and-a-half years into its second term in office.

On a Friday evening in late June, I sat down with Marianela Prada Tejada in the office of the Ministry of Economics and Public Finance. She’s presently the executive of the cabinet that runs the ministry, and has been working in different posts within it since 2007. She began our conversation by noting the bad reputation left-wing governments developed over the years in terms of economic management in Bolivia.

Pinning this baggage mainly on the unprecedented hyperinflationary crisis that occurred under the watch of the short-lived Democratic Popular Unity (UDP) administration in the early 1980s, Prada Tejada believes that UDP failure opened the door for the long neoliberal night that followed. As a result, a collective notion has lived on in the country’s imaginary, which says that “progressive governments, governments of the Left in Bolivia don’t know how to administer the economy of the country.” Even worse, she laughed bitterly, this time, with Morales, it was an Indian in charge. There was no doubt for the racist opposition that “a left-wing Indian was going to be a disaster for the country.” Continue reading

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Bolivia’s Indigenous future: A balance of preservation, protection and connection

Note: This article, originally posted on Climate Connections as Indigenous Roots Appreciated and Preserved in Bolivia” was incorrectly attributed.  The real author is Courtney Parker, and it was published on Intercontinental Cry under the title,  Bolivia’s Indigenous Future: A Balance of Preservation, Protection and Connection.  GJEP apologizes for the confusion.

-The GJEP Team

By Courtney Parker, December 24, 2013. Source: Intercontinental Cry

Evo Morales’s very name seems to suggest his destiny of leading Bolivia in a valiant attempt at ‘moral evolution’ with all other Nation States in tow. Tasked with the difficult role of representing his Indigenous roots at the national and international levels of government and policy, Morales continues to make great strides that by all appearances bridge the dichotomy of tradition and modernity. Recent evolutions in Bolivian national policy regarding the protection and preservation of indigenous cultures continue to gain legal traction. Simultaneously, more Bolivians than ever before are poised to claim their rightful place in the interconnected web that is the information age.

Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia recently performed rituals to ‘Pachamama’, or ‘Mother Earth’ to bless the launch of Bolivia’s first telecommunications satellite. The satellite has been officially named, ‘Tupac Katar’, after the revered Amyara indigenous hero who led a resistance to Spanish colonization in the 18th century. The new satellite has been lauded with the potential to drastically reduce the cost of television and satellite services to rural communities, according to the Associated Press.

Bolivia’s indigenous communities have claimed another victory of late. A new law is being implemented, designed to instill harsh penalties on any entity found to be endangering the livelihood and preservation of Bolivia’s numerous Indigenous Peoples. Recent coverage on Infosurhoy.com provides a rundown of the new legal development, outlining four categories of offenses that will elicit harsh penalties on guilty parties.

The first category of offense cited is: ‘cultural genocide’, which carries a punishment of 15-20 years in prison for those found to be in violation. Such designated crimes would include actions deemed to exhibit a plausible threat to the continued existence of any Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia.

The second category in the new legal framework is ‘cultural disruption’, which is defined as any activity found to negatively alter indigenous livelihood–a crime that’s punishable by anywhere between 6-10 years in prison.

The third category, ‘financing of cultural disruption’, with a nod to Bolivia’s overall movement towards resisting destructive forms of imperialism, can carry an even harsher penalty of 8-12 years.

The final category, ‘environmental damage’ can also carry an 8-12 year sentence, perhaps highlightinganother recent evolution in national jurisprudence that gave distinctive rights to Pachamama herself.

The new legal move towards preserving indigenous culture will also give birth to a new government agency known as DISEPIO. Translated to English as “The General Directorate of Indigenous Nations and Peoples at Risk of Extinction, in Voluntary Isolation or Without Contact”, DISEPIO, according to Deputy Minister for Native Indigenous Justice, Isabel Ortega, will be in charge of developing specific plans and programs that protect Indigenous Peoples under the new regulations.

In a recent interview, Guarayo indigenous leader, Bienvenido Zacu, lamented on the challenges ahead in bridging the gap between establishing such regulations and assuring their broad and continued implementation:

In order to protect the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, we need more than just regulations. We need to raise the level of awareness and we particularly need to provide ongoing health care, instead of responding to emergencies, such as the threat of extinction.

Zacu went on to suggest that broad public awareness campaigns might also play a role in these focused efforts at preventing cultural extinction. “We’re about to become extinct. We can’t stand back and let this happen. We need to get back in touch with our roots,” he commented.

According to the most recent Bolivian census, between 15 and 36 indigenous populations are hovering on the edge of cultural extinction. This new law will seek to preserve these important lines of heritage while the new technology services will aim to supplement the overall standard of living in rural areas. The Machineri Peoples, with a count of just 38 men, women and children, is the most vulnerable of all. Others, such as the Guarasugwe and the Tapieté remain intact, though with populations that are dipping below 100. The relatively large Amyara and Quechua Peoples are stable and strong, each having populations well over a million according to the same census count. It is thought that all of the headcounts may prove to be much higher once more advanced methods of obtaining and reporting familial heritage become available.

Bolvia’s forward strides in indigenous rights at home will most likely continue to pave the way internationally as a model for, and harbinger of, a more evolved standard of indigenous jurisprudence around the world. Landmark paradigm shifts, such as Bolivia’s official declaration of ‘plurinationalism’ in 2009, continue to reinforce Bolivia’s status as a global leader in the movement to recognize indigenous sovereignty as protected by international law. In return, increased international awareness may be expanded and reflected back to Bolivia’s Indigenous Peoples from the international stage, as more and more Bolivians gain access to information technology and thus claim their rightful power to represent themselves directly to the global community.


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Bolivia ready for nuclear power: Evo Morales

7 November, 2013. Source: WW4 Report

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said Oct. 28 that his country has achieved the conditions to obtain nuclear power for “pacific ends,” and that Argentina and France would help “with their knowledge.” He made his comments at the opening of a “Hydrocarbon Sovereignty” conference in Tarija. In May, Bolivia and Argentina signed an accord on nuclear cooperation. In an obvious reference to the United States, Morales anticipated political obstacles, saying that “some countries have [nuclear energy] but don’t want to let others.”

Morales also took aim at “ecologist fundamentalism” that stands in the way of development projects. “[S]ome NGOs oppose everything, they will not let us work,  they will not let us explore,  they will not let us industrialize, not even to develop hydroelectric plants.” He emphasized that industrailization of the hydrocarbon sector would advance, with development of petrochemical capacity foreseen. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, Oct. 28)

Carlos Villegas, president of state hydrocarbon company YPFB dismissed recent reports that the country could be facing an oil and gas deficit by 2017, unable to meet both internal demand and foreign contracts. He said current known reserves assured expansion until at least 2023, and new reserves would be brought on line. (Los Tiempos, Oct. 29)

The Morales government recently announced the development of uranium reserves in Potosí department, ironically echoing President Obama in promoting “clean nuclear power.” Morales also recently entered into a deal with China to develop a Bolivian space program, which is certain to raise concerns about missiles if nuclear development actually proceeds.

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Nuclear power

Morales: Obama can invade any country for US energy needs

Note: Watch the video here

-The GJEP Team

September 27, 2013. Source: RT

evo-moralesIn his dramatic speech in New York, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the UN to be moved out of the US and for Barack Obama to be tried for crimes against humanity. Speaking to RT, Morales explained his controversial proposals.

In his most controversial demand, Morales said that Obama should face an international trial with human rights watchdogs among the judges. The Bolivian president accused his US counterpart of instigating conflicts in the Middle East to make the region more volatile and to increase the US’s grip on the natural resources it abounds in. He gave Libya as an example of a country where “they arranged for the president to be killed, and they usurped Libya’s oil.”

“Now they are funding the rebels that fight against presidents who don’t support capitalism or imperialism,” Morales told Eva Golinger of RT’s Spanish sister channel, Actualidad. “And where a coup d’état is impossible, they seek to divide the people in order to weaken the nation – a provocation designed to trigger an intervention by peacekeeping forces, NATO, the UN Security Council. But the intervention itself is meant to get hold of oil resources and gain geopolitical control, rather than enforce respect for human rights.”
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Gazprom, Total to explore promising oil and gas fields in Bolivia

Note: Well, so much for the Rights of Mother Earth…if major energy corporations are now seen as “partners” in Morales’ Bolivia, maybe Morales’ Bolivia isn’t quite the dream world for which so many fought.

-The GJEP Team

August 1, 2013. Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

Contract YPFB - Gazprom - Total - 1Russian gas giant Gazprom and French energy major Total plan to invest $130 million to explore the Azero block, a highly promising area in Bolivia’s southeast.

State-owned Bolivian energy company YPFB, Gazprom and Total signed the contract Thursday in a ceremony presided over by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who expressed the country’s “deep satisfaction” over the deal and said foreign companies now operate in the Andean nation as partners not “bosses.”

Morales noted that the Bolivian government took in just $300 million in oil and gas revenue in 2005, a year before his government nationalized the sector, while last year those revenues climbed to more than $4 billion.

“Those are the results of the nationalization,” he said.
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