LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Friday agreed not to build a road through an Amazon reserve amid pressure from Indians who had marched for 66 days to La Paz to protest the plan.
Morales made the announcement a little over an hour after protest leaders had gathered outside the presidential palace in hopes of holding talks with him, saying that he would submit a bill to Congress that addressed their demand.
The socialist president, who had insisted for months on the need for the Brazilian-funded road, said the bill will state that neither “the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway, nor any other, will traverse the Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis).”
Morales announced that the proposed legislation also will ensure that the Amazon Indians are shielded from the encroachment of outside groups of settlers.
The Tipnis residents have accused Morales of promoting the road project to give indigenous coca farmers in the Chapare region, which borders the reserve and is the president’s political stronghold, more acreage for growing the leaf, the raw material of cocaine.
Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits cultivation of coca in limited amounts for use in teas, folk medicine and Andean religious rites. Morales has combined stepped-up seizures of cocaine with efforts to develop additional legal applications for coca.
Protest leader Rafael Quispe, like Morales an Aymara Indian, said the bill was a “good sign” but he added the Tipnis inhabitants still have a list of 15 demands they want to discuss with the president.
“Until the 16 points are resolved, we’ll remain here, mobilized,” the president of Tipnis, Fernando Vargas, said at the door of the presidential palace. EFE