Appeal to OAS over highway
Indigenous groups seek support of regional body to block controversial Amazon road.
Indigenous communities from Bolivia’s Amazon requested the support of the Washington-based Organization of American States, or OAS, to help stop the construction of a roadway through the jungle that they have said will threaten their way of life and the local flora and fauna.
Indigenous leaders met with OAS Secretary-General Miguel Insulza during the regional body’s 42nd General Assembly, held June 3-5 in the central city of Cochabamba, and asked him to protect communities’ rights.
“We have asked [Insulza] to use his position to ensure that the rights that are violated, not just of the indigenous, but of all Bolivian people, are respected,” said Fernando Vargas, leader of the indigenous communities of the Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory, or Tipnis.
The US$420 million, 306-kilometer (191-mile) roadway, which will be financed in part by neighboring Brazil, would cut through the Tipnis.
Outraged over the project, indigenous groups recently marched 600 kilometers (375 miles) to La Paz to demand it be cancelled. The demonstrations were met with brutal force by government security forces last year, and the repression led to a sharp drop in approval ratings for President Evo Morales, who ran on a platform of defending indigenous and campesino rights.
While the government cancelled Brazilian firm OAS’ construction contract for the project in April, protests continued, as demonstrators demanded the entire highway be called off and that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the regional OAS body, start an investigation into rights violations. —Latinamerica Press.