Indigenous people at Plaza de Armas square in La Paz this October. They arrived after a two-month march from their ancestral homeland in the Amazon lowlands to press Bolivian President Evo Morales to cancel a road project through a reserve. Morales announced recently he was scrapping the controversial plan to build a highway through an Amazon ecological reserve that has triggered widespread protests. (AFP PHOTO/AIZAR RALDES)
BOLIVIA: Bolivia’s first Indigenous President has scrapped a controversial super highway that would have cut into the homelands of Indigenous tribes.
The controversy over the highway, 177km of which would have stretched through a national park self-governed by Indigenous communities, had threatened to severely damage President Evo Morales’ reputation as a defender of Indigenous rights.
About 2,000 of the province’s Indigenous peoples marched for 600 km from their home to the administrative centre of La Paz to demand the highway be halted.
The protestors were concerned that the highway would lead to illegal logging as well as an influx of farmers who want to grow coco leaf in the area.
At one point of the march, protestors broke through a police blockade and forced the Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca to walk with them for nearly four hours.
The protestors finally reached La Paz last month, and arrived to one of the biggest anti-government rallies since President Morales took power six years ago.
President Morales greeted the protestors as “brothers and sisters” and announced he would scrap the plan following five hours of talks with representatives of the march.
He has also thrown his support behind legislation which will bar any further highways through the territory in the future.