16 September 2011
The Bolivian government has decided to build a road through a National Park which is home to some sixteen thousand indigenous people. Opponents of the project claim that the decision violates the Bolivian Constitution and existing laws such as the Environment Act and the Protected Areas Act among others, and that the road, will cause great ecological destruction in Bolivia, as well as ignoring the rights of the indigenous peoples who inhabit the region.
The people invited the President Evo Morales to come and talk with them but he declined. In response the people and their supporters have undertaken a peaceful march - "The Long March on behalf of the Loma Santa (Mother Earth) and Indigenous Rights" - to the capital city La Paz in order to plead their case, although the march has been blocked and obstructed by those supporting the government’s decision.
Christian Brothers have been active in organizing and attending meetings and providing support for the marchers eg. through the delivery of food, with one Brother even being detained by the police for a time as a consequence.
The Brothers have also decided to place an statement in the Sunday newspaper publicly expressing their solidarity with the indigenous people and rejecting the climate of harassment, intimidation and violence that has developed in opposition to the march.
The statement also expresses the conviction that the issue needs to be resolved by guaranteeing the full exercise of collective rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consultation as guaranteed in the Bolivian Constitution which requires transparency from all government authorities in providing all information regarding the highway project.
More information about the protest campaign can be found at the TIPNIS website.