Last Sunday, Bolivian police used tear gas and truncheons to crack down on indigenous men, women and children who are marching against an illegal mega-highway that will slice through the protected Amazon rainforest.
72 hours later, the country is in crisis — two key Ministers have resigned, Bolivians are erupting in street protests across the country, and President Evo Morales has been forced to temporarily suspend the highway construction. But powerful multinationals are already divvying up this important nature preserve. Now, only if the world stands with these brave indigenous people can we ensure the highway is rerouted and the forest is protected.
Avaaz just delivered a 115,000 strong Bolivian and Latin American emergency petition to two senior government Ministers — they are worried about massive public pressure and are on the back foot. Now after this brutal violence let’s ramp up the pressure and raise a global alarm to end the crackdown and stop the highway. Click to sign the urgent petition — it will be delivered spectacularly to President Evo Morales when we reach 500,000:
Thousands of indigenous people have been marching for six weeks from the Amazon to the capital. Finally, at a meeting with Avaaz last week, Bolivia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs pledged to open dialogue with leaders. On Saturday, he went to speak with the marchers, but when he refused their basic demands, they forced him to march with them for one hour to break the police fence. The next day troops stormed the area where the protesters had set up camp and brutally beat and detained hundreds and loaded them onto buses to forcibly remove them.
The proposed 300km highway would cut straight through Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS in Spanish), the crown jewel of the Bolivian Amazon, famous for its huge trees, astonishing wildlife and fresh water. TIPNIS’s incredible natural and cultural significance have earned it the status of a double protected area — as a National Park and an indigenous reservoir. The highway is financed by Brazil and would link Brazil to Pacific ports. But below the surface, it would be a poisonous artery that would destroy these communities and the forest and open up this pristine land to logging, oil and mining explorations, and large scale industrial and agricultural business. A recent study found that 64% of the park could be deforested by 2030 if the road is built.
Bolivian and international law say indigenous leaders must be consulted if the government wishes to take their land, and the indigenous communities want safer alternatives to foster economic growth and regional integration. But the government has ignored their vocal opposition and failed to study a single alternative road route outside TIPNIS. Instead, Morales is pushing for a referendum for the region which ignores the law and is seen by many as an attempt to fabricate illegitimate consent.
Morales — known as Bolivia’s first indigenous President — is renowned globally for standing strong for the environment and indigenous people. Let’s encourage him to stick to those principles now that this simmering conflict has violently reached boiling point, and stand with those on the front line struggling for Amazon protection and respect for indigenous communities — sign this urgent petition to stop the crackdown and the illegal highway:
Again and again, the protection of the land we all depend on and the rights of indigenous people are sacrificed by our governments at the altar of development and economic growth. Our leaders often choose mining and deforestation over our own survival — regularly directly profiting foreign corporations. In the future we all want, the environment and the lives of innocent people come before profit. President Evo Morales now has the chance to back his people, save the Amazon, and rethink what real development looks like in Latin America.
Luis, Laura, Alice, Ricken, David, Diego, Shibayan, Alex and the rest of the Avaaz team