Bolivia: Amazon Protest — Development Before Environment?

The decision by leaders of the Sub Central of the Indigenous Territory and National Isiboro Secure Park (TIPNIS), to initiate a 500-kilometre protest march on Bolivia's capital of La Paz capital has ignited much debate about the nature of Bolivia’s first indigenous led-government.

The Sub Central of TIPNIS unites the 64 indigenous communities within the park.

Much analysis has focused on the supposed hypocrisy of the government headed by Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous head of state. The Morales government has been criticised for pursuing pro-capitalist development and trampling on the rights of its own indigenous people.

Many analysts have also highlighted the contradiction between Morales’ public discourse in defence of indigenous rights and Mother Earth, and the proposal of his government’s to build a new highway that would run through this protected area of the Amazon.

According to Raul Prada, until recently a key figure in the Morales government and now ardent critic, the protests are forcing Morales to choose between “defence of life, of forests, of human beings and the vital cycles of the system of life or the path of narcotrafficking, of corrosive trade, extraction-based dependency, of the highways of dependency on emergent powers [a reference to Brazil ] and the empire”.

However, what the protests have actually revealed is the complicated reality of Bolivia’s social movements. It has shown the deep challenges they face in overcoming centuries of underdevelopment and internal fissures, which both threaten to undermine the process of change underway since Morales w

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