Some 500 indigenous people from the Bolivian lowlands arrived tired on Thursday in the Santa Cruz region after a 37-day march in defense of their territory and in rejection of the bullies amid applause from a crowd of people who came out to greet them.
This is one of the protests that complicates the Bolivian government, which is also waging an 11-day conflict over the dispute over control of the coca market in La Paz.
A column of indigenous people from the most remote areas of the east left the city of Trinidad, in the Amazon region of Beni, on August 25 and arrived at the main square of Santa Cruz, the largest city in the east, after traveling about 600 kilometers. Many of them with blistered feet, cramps and fatigue attended mass.
Marcial Fabricano, 68, is the leader of the march and who led the first walk in 1990. “This march means no more invasions,” he said.
In a petition, the indigenous people demanded that the government “repeal all regulations and/or resolutions that allow all kinds of subjugation in all ancestral indigenous territories” and a new redistribution of land in which they demand to be included, among other 10 points.
Fabricano said a dialogue with the government is expected, which has not yet been confirmed.
Santa Cruz is the epicenter of land disputes between settlers supposedly related to the government, landowners and indigenous communities in the Chiquitana region, a rich dry forest of great biodiversity neighboring the Amazon that in 2019 suffered a devastating fire – largely caused by the agricultural expansion – which wiped out more than five million hectares, according to the Friends of Nature Foundation.
The government downplayed the indigenous march and said it was driven by the political opposition. Meanwhile, opponents backed the native communities. “The demands have been misrepresented, which is more due to political speeches,” Roberto Ríos, deputy minister of Citizen Security, said recently.
Meanwhile, in La Paz, a dispute over control of the coca market worsened after 11 days of conflicts that have left dozens of detainees and injured, as well as damage to homes and police centers in the Villa Fátima neighborhood, where it is located. the legal coca market, now guarded by the police.
The incidents came after one of the disputed groups accused the government and police of sponsoring another group that took control of the market on Monday, according to coca grower leader Armin Lluta.
Neighbors had to leave with white flags for the factions to reach a dialogue after the area ended up as a battlefield.
In Bolivia, the coca leaf is used for traditional uses such as chewing and infusions, but various studies maintain that a good part of the production is diverted to the manufacture of cocaine, of which Bolivia is the third largest producer in the world after Colombia and Peru.
A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicated in late August that coca has spread in the north of La Paz, beyond the permitted limits.
The legal trade in this bush moves between 365 and 449 million dollars a year, just over 1.4% of Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the UN body.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.