Bolivia: cocaleros clash with eradication force

Coca-growers in Bolivia's lowland jungle town of Yapacaní on March 27 clashed with police in a protest against the construction of a new base of the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), the hated coca-eradication force. Protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent construction crews from breaking ground on the new base. When National Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, protesters replied by hurling rocks. Regional police commander Johnny Requena blamed drug gangs for the opposition to the base, which is being financed by the European Union to the tune of $1.3 million.

Bolivia: three dead in miners' protests

Thousands of miners blocked highways in five departments of Bolivia for five days starting March 31 to protest a pending new mining law. Members of mining cooperatives installed at least 10 roablocks in the departments of  La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí and Oruro. At least three were killed in clashes with the National Police. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation, which had already cleared the lower-house Chamber of Deputies. The bill sought to bar the cooperatives from seeking private investment, restricting them to contracts with the Bolivian state. In response to the protests, President Evo Morales is drafting a new bill that would allow private contracts while restricting investment by foreign companies. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, April 5; EFE, AFPEl Universal, Venezuela, April 4; EFE, April 3; El Deber, Santa Cruz, Reuters, April 1)

Chile-Peru border dispute: back on

Chile's President Sebstián Piñera filed an official complaint Feb. 12 laying claim to 3.7 hectares (nine acres) of desert on the border with Peru—re-opening the border conflict between the two nations after a January ruling at The Hague had resolved a long-standing dispute on the maritime boundary. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Chile could maintain its sovereignty of fishing waters near the coast but granted Peru control of deeper waters to the southwest. After the ruling, Peru's government released a map designating the contested land triangle as its own—which was immediately rejected by Santiago, citing a 1929 treaty. Piñera's formal assertion of sovereignty over the contested strip follows friction with Peru's President Ollanta Humala at Pacific Alliance summit in Colombia earlier in the week. Following the meeting, Piñera publicly broached withdrawing from the Pact of Bogotá, the regional treaty granting the ICJ jurisdiction in international disputes.

Bolivia: pro-MAS faction takes CONAMAQ office

The police-besieged offices of the divided Aymara indigenous organization CONAMAQ in La Paz were turned over on Jan. 15 to leaders of the faction aligned with Bolivia's ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). The pro-MAS faction, led by Hilarión Mamani, marched on the two-story building in the city's Sopocachi district, which was surrounded by a double cordon: first, a phalanx of riot police, then a vigil by supporters of the independent "organic" faction. Mamani's group, some 300 strong, reportedly advanced on the vigil, sparking a brief fracas. "Organic" CONAMAQ said in a statement that Mamani rejected an offer of dialogue on the spot, and that two "organic" leaders, Félix Becerra and Cancio Rojas, were physically threatened. Mamani and his group were then allowed to pass into the building by police, who were supposedly under orders to secure it from either faction until the dispute is resolved. (Erbol, Página Siete, La Paz, Jan. 15)

Andean protesters resist death-marred Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally Raid motor-race across the Andes has already claimed three lives since leaving Rosario, Argentina, on Jan. 4—a motorcylist and two "spectators" who were following the race in a vehicle. Progress was finally halted five days later when residents and municipal workers in the Argentine town of Juan Alberdi, Tucumán province, blocked the road to prevent passage. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 11; EFE, El Gráfico, Buenos Aires, Jan. 9) Meanwhile, the Chilean Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the motor-race brought by the College of Archaeologists of Chile, who site damage to ancient petroglyphs in a previous  Dakar Rally through the country. The group's vice president Paola González, told France24: "In Chile, a national monuments law considers this a punishable crime. Nevertheless, the destruction with impunity of our national heritage continues."

Bolivia: Aymara resist car-culture spectacle

Bolivia is mobilizing police to the route across the Altiplano and Uyuni salt flats to be taken by the upcoming Dakar Rally Raid cross-country motor-race following a pledge by Aymara protesters to blockade it with their bodies. Adherents of dissident Aymara organization CONAMAQ say they will block the international road rally to press their demands that National Police troops that have been surrounding their La Paz office stand down. CONAMAQ followers along the route through Potosí and Oruro departments are organizing their communities for action. "We say that Dakar will only benefit the city, and not the indigenous peoples," said CONAMAQ leader Rafael Quispe. "The leaders of the 16 suyus [indigenous regions] have resolved to block the passage of Dakar." 

Peru claims new blow against Sendero Luminoso, assails Bolivia

Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Dec. 9 announced the capture of the new commander of the remnant Sendero Luminoso column in the Upper Huallaga Valley—one of two remaining pockets of coca-producing jungle where the scattered Maoist guerilla movement is still keeping alive a local insurgency. The commander was named as Alexander Fabián Huamán AKA "Héctor"—said to have assumed leadership of the guerillas' "Huallaga Regional Committee" after the capture last year of "Comrade Artemio," the last "historic" Sendero leader (that is, dating back to the insurgency's heyday 20 years ago). Gen. Víctor Romero Fernández, commander of the National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO), called the arrest a "hard blow" against the guerillas, and predicted that "Sendero Luminoso is disappearing in this zone." (InfoBAEAndina, Dec. 9)

Bolivia: Aymara dissidents block highway

Followers of Bolivian Aymara organization CONAMAQ blocked the highway between La Paz and Oruro for four hours Dec. 19, demanding that their office in La Paz be returned to them—and not be turned over to rivals within the organization that they say are being manipulated by the ruling party. The dispute began nine days earlier, when CONAMAQ's national gathering in La Paz, dubbed the Jach'a Tantachawi (Grand Assembly), broke down into a physical confrontation for control of the office. The following day, Dec. 11, National Police riot troops sealed off the office, barring access to the dissident faction that had been in control of it, "organic CONAMAQ." Adherents of this faction, led by Félix Becerra, began a round-the-clock vigil outside the office, camping on the sidewalk opposite a phalanx of police. On Dec. 13, a fight erupted when the vigilers were set upon by followers of the rival faction, led by Hilarión Mamani. That night, five "organic" leaders began a hunger strike to demand the office be restored to them. On Dec. 18, they lifted their fast, and decided to take direct action. One of the strikers, Walberto Barahona of Qhara Qhara Suyu, Chuquisaca department, said: "It is better to mobilize, because if we wait sitting we will die of hunger."

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