Closing space for indigenous activists to protect communities' land rights
Indigenous community representatives have expressed their concern over the approval of Act 266 that withdraws the protected status for the Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory - TIPNIS). Activists opposing the law claim that the motive behind it is to open the park for resource and economic exploitation and the building of a road through the protected area. Indigenous communities and activists are worried that they will face harassment for their efforts to protect the park due to the strong economic interests in the area. In addition, a resolution was approved stating that representatives of NGOs and foreign citizens that want access to this area should receive prior permission. Susana Erostegui, director of the NGO Red UNITAS, asserted that:
"They are fundamental freedoms recognized at an international level and our State, rather, the Government itself, must give the guarantees so that every citizen feels that he is exercising these rights without any interference or restriction of being able to mobilize and to work, and even more if it is for the benefit of some sectors". (Translated from Spanish)
Protests over Act 266 - as described above - have erupted in Beni, Santa Cruz and La Paz. It was reported that at least two indigenous leaders started a hunger strike to oppose the law. Police dispersed protesters and blocked the streets near the National Assembly and prevented that demonstrators from reaching the National Assembly Square in La Paz the day the Act was approved.
In a separate incident, on 7th July 2017 police officers repressed a protest organised by a feminist movement during which four demonstrators were arrested. The demonstrators were released after taking financial responsibility for damage done during the protest.
During President Morale's inauguration of a Truth Commission to investigate cases of human rights violations during past military regimes, police prevented a group of survivors of human rights abuses that from participating in the inaugural event.
In addition, protests in Achacachi continued to demand the resignation of the city's mayor who faces accusations of corruption. On 23rd August, police used tear gas to intervene and remove a protesters' barricade. Demonstrators declared that if something were to happen to them, it would be the responsibility of the authorities.
Asociación de Periodistas de La Paz denounced the fact that journalists had been prevented from entering the TIPNIS to report on the ongoing situation with the national park, stating that:
"Citizens have the right to be properly informed, therefore, companies, workers, settlers and authorities of the region are obliged to allow and facilitate the work of journalists, in compliance with the constitutional precept of the right to information". (Translated from Spanish)