On June 4 Bolivia's Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon presided at a meeting in Sucre that brought together the country's leading jurists, including members of the Constitutional Tribunal, with traditional indigenous authorities from the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB), the Unitary Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Sindical Confederation of Intercultural Communities of Bolivia (CSCIB). At the meeting, aimed at hashing out a common position on indigenous autonomy as guaranteed by Bolivia's new constitution, conflict emerged over Ayllon's assertion that the guarantees should be applied to 36 ethnic groups. CONAMAQ's David Crispín asserted that there are actually 50 indigenous peoples and nationalities within Bolivia under the standards outlined in the constitution. CONAMAQ's legal authority Simón Antonio Cuiza offered to provide documentation for the claim to jurists and lawmakers, and work with them to truly establish Bolivia as a "plurinational state." (CONAMAQ via Facebook, June 7)
On June 5, the Governing Counil of Ayllus of Cochabamba, a coordinating body of traditional indigenous authorities, met in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to denounce what they charged are plans by Vice President Álvaro García Linera to open the country's protected areas to oil and mineral interests. The statement said the government is preparing "new incentives for companies to begin intense exploration in oil areas that are superimposed on the national parks and on our ancestral territories and titled TCOs," or Original Communal Lands.
After more than two weeks of tension, with a general strike by public-sector workers, roadblocks and episodes of violence, the Bolivian Workers' Central (COB) and the government of Evo Morales reached an accord May 21. Conflict around the strike, which began May 5, left at least 30 injured and more than 100 detained. COB demanded that the government double pensions, which currently range from $21 to $28 a month. COB called for reform of a pension law passed just three years ago, bringing pensions to the same level as monthly salaries, at least in the state mining sector. The government is now offering an 81% hike. The strike mostly affected the state-owned Huanuni tin mine in Oruro department—the country's largest, accounting for half the country's tin production—costing the government some $8 million. Mining is Bolivia's second foreign currency earner after natural gas. Silver is its largest metals export, followed by zinc and tin. (Mining Weekly, May 27; InfoBAE, May 22; AP, Reuters, May 17 May 16)
Four people are reported to have been killed in Bolivia last week by local residents acting in the name of "community justice." In Colquechaca, Potosí, a youth of 16 was buried alive by local Quechua residents after being accused of raping and killing a local woman. A district prosecutor reported that he was thrown alive into the same grave as his purported victim. Two men, 17 and 21, were reportedly burned alive at Tres Cruces, Potosí, accused of having killed a local taxi driver. The fourth fatality took place in an unnamed pueblo in the Chapare region of Cochabamba department, where an accused thief was beaten to death. "Community justice" is enshrined in Bolivia's new constitution, amid provisions instating local autonomy for indigenous peoples, but the government considers such incidents to be lynchings. (InfoBAE, NY Daily News, June 7)
The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.
Seven social leaders in Bolivia's aliplano city of Oruro have been on a public hunger strike for 10 days now to protest the decision to change the name of the local airport to Juan Evo Morales, after the sitting president. The strike began after the Oruro departmental assembly, dominated by the president's supporters, voted to approve the change from the current name of Juan Mendoza, an aviation hero who was born in the region. The airport has been named for Mendoza since it opened in 1945. Over the past week, hundreds of supporters of the hunger strike, organized by the Civic Committee of Oruro and the Departamental Workers Central (COD), repeatedly blocked roads in the city. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, March 10; Los Tiempos, EFE, March 5)
Four suyus (traditional Aymara territories) in Bolivia's Oruro department appealed Feb. 15 to the region's Superoir Court of Justice, demanding that authorities recognize the Aymara system of justice. "The mechanism of conflict resolution in the ayllus, markas and suyus of the Department of Oruro has a position of equal rank with ordinary justice," the complaint reads. The suyus of Suras, Jach'a Carangas, Jatun Quillacas and Uru Chipayas brought the case through the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), demanding modification of Bolivia's Autonomy and Decentralization Law. (El Potosí, Feb. 15)
Some 2,000 Bolivians marched Feb. 20 through central La Paz to the Chilean consulate to demand the liberation of three Bolivian soliders held since Jan. 25 after crossing the border into the neighboring country. At the consulate, protesters delivered an open letter addressed to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, demanidng that he comply with his "historic obligation" to answer Bolivian demands for sea access. The march was led by an alliance of popular organizations, including Bolivia's campesino federation, CSUTCB.