Evo Morales, TIPNIS and Illusions of Green
Not everything that shines is green...
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“But Evo Morales is an international hero of the green movement,” was one of the first reactions I got from who was to become my American lawyer, just before I was declared a political prisoner of the Bolivian government. It took several emails to change his perception; eventually I began writing a series of articles (now summarized in Prisoner in Bolivia, and The Perfume of Poison) about Bolivia, attempting to clarify this obscure culture to my readers. Then, what looked as yet another minor set of protests began gaining momentum and TIPNIS provided yet another fascinating glimpse into what international press often wrongly refers to ecological issues. The Path of Coca would be a more accurate title.
Shattering a Dream
The task of this series of articles is monumental – after all Evo Morales is the favorite boy of many ecological, green, anti-imperialist movements – thus the best is to begin this one with a few shocking facts and pictures. In fact, the Bolivian green is red:
One of the closest organizations to Evo Morales is named “Ponchos Rojos” (“red ponchos” after their colorful garment). They center is the Omasuyos area of the Andean High Plateau – not far from La Paz - and are often seen as a paramilitary organization. They move around with “chicotes” (whips) resting on their shoulders even within the cities, ready to apply what here is known as “Community Justice.” On January 23, 2007, Morales and senior Bolivian military chiefs attended an indigenous people rally of the "Red Ponchos." At the rally Morales said: "I urge our Armed Forces along with the ‘Ponchos Rojos’ to defend our unity and our territorial integrity." Further recognizing their informal role, the Ponchos Rojos have led military events in several occasions. Adding to this is also the fact that Evo Morales himself is often photographed wearing the garment, thus it is hard not to see them as part of the new establishment.
The training of the Ponchos Rojos has been reported intensively by the Bolivian media. Several videos show dogs hanging alive when paramilitary Ponchos Rojos approach them and cut their throats. The picture above shows the result. This is not the behavior of people respecting nature, or even their immediate ecosystem. This is useless brutality performed by savages.
Unluckily for the green movements’ hero, Evo Morales is being hit by his disastrous decision to build a road through the Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure, also known as TIPNIS. This is a national park and autonomous indigenous area close to the border between the Cochabamba and Beni departments. Evo Morales has repeatedly failed to explain why his government is destroying the park instead of building the road through a slightly different route; land is not an issue here – the countryside is practically empty. Moreover, he repeatedly rejected talks with the protesters and used obscene language towards the marchers, including his infamous declaration of August 4, when he claimed that campesino youth should “go out and seduce the Yuracaré women” to enlist their support for the TIPNIS highway.
At the beginning of September 2011, the TIPNIS Affair is growing stronger, to the extent unusual graffities (“Evo Traitor” – see picture at the top of the page) have appeared in central La Paz. This is secondary to the ongoing march from Trinidad to La Paz (a 375 miles trajectory from the Amazonian Basin lowlands up to the Andean High Plateau; a march of 1500 heroes against nature and Empire), which has already ended in the death of marchers and several violent events between the protesters and unidentified civilians supporting the government. It has been made public some of the people attacking the marchers were cocaleros, coca-growers. Here we are getting close to the truth.
Faithful readers of this website may have already recognized some of the names and guessed out the truth. A large country, Bolivia features two main zones: the Andean High Plateau and the Amazonian Basin lowlands. Paved roads are scarce in the country; most denizens stick to their hometowns. As such, the highland and lowland cultures are quite different. The two are separated by high valleys, which are the cross of the matter. Yungas is an area of high valleys north of La Paz; it is the traditional source of coca leaves. About a generation ago, miners left the Andean High Plateau and moved to Chapare (Evo Morales is closely related to this group), where they introduced the coca. The coca from Yungas is traditionally aimed for local consumption (i.e. is not transformed into drugs, but chewed as leaves). Yungas belongs to La Paz – not the country’s capital city, but the seat of government – and thus tightly attached to the country’s heart. The coca from Chapare is a different story. The area is located between the departments of Cochabamba and Beni (wild to such an extent there is no formal border between the departments). Chapare is very close to Santa Cruz, the main industrial center (yet, it hosts just very-light industry, mainly food packaging). Moreover, Chapare provides access to backdoor roads into Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Unluckily, there are few roads in the area; the one through TIPNIS would change the situation. Suddenly, destroying a national parks looks as secondary; after all this will be a very profitable stretch of asphalt.
The confusion of the international green movements can be understood. They see an indigenous president and automatically consider him green and anti-imperialist. Fact is that over 80% of Bolivian population is indigenous. The vast majority of the remnant is mixed. It isn’t only that former presidents and other prominent politicians had indigenous blood, but that some of them even changed their names so that they could present themselves as of Spaniard descent. Few people in Bolivia were impressed by Evo Morales Aymara ancestry. His political power is the result of his still heading the federation of coca growers. Indirectly, the USA is his largest client. Green Anti-Imperialism is alluring and easily marketable to the international media; unluckily, not all that shines is green.
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