The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Standoff in the Beni
Communications Committee of the Eighth Indigenous March, Alison Spedding, 2018. "Standoff in the Beni", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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In August 2011, lowland indigenous organizations set off on a new march to protest the government’s plan to build a highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (tipnis). It was a fraught moment—President Evo Morales had declared the road would go through regardless of local indigenous opposition, indigenous groups insisted on their constitutional right to be consulted before any such project could be undertaken, and coca-growing settlers who had migrated into the tipnis and were now allies of the government mounted a blockade in the town of Yucumo (Beni) to stop the indigenous march. The following excerpts capture the confrontation between the protestors and the government ministers who met them on the nineteenth day of their march.
This meeting ended on a note of conciliation, but only days later, on 25 September, as the march approached the town of Yucumo, government forces sought to break it up. The massive and carefully planned police operation in Chaparina left over seventy indigenous protestors wounded and generated widespread outrage. The marchers persisted, however, and eventually reached La Paz, on 19 October, to broad public acclaim. President Morales temporarily conceded to the indigenous pressures by forbidding construction of the highway, though the government’s position would later change again. The future of the highway remained on hold through the national elections of 2014, but the state repression of the march revealed the deep contradictions that had opened up between the Movement to Socialism (MAS) government and some of the indigenous social movements in the country.