The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today condemned "the use of excessive and indiscriminate force" by the Government of Evo Morales against a protest by 1500 Tipnis natives who were marching against the construction of a road that would cut a natural reserve in half.
In a communiqué, the office of the OHCHR in La Paz, Bolivia deplored that agents had repressed the natives, among them 400 women and 120 children "who were resting in their camping are on Sunday afternoon" near the Amazon town of Yucumo, about 300 kilometers from La Paz.
The United Nations stated that the police attack resulted in over one hundred injured and about 200 detainees "who recovered their freedom 17 hours later and caused numerous boys and girls to be temporarily separated from their parents."
The repression of the protest, for which neither president Evo Morales nor his ministers take responsibility, although the president did ask forgiveness, lit off a wave of protests throughout the country and created a crisis for the government including the resignation of two ministers, one vice minister and various other authorities.
The United Nations highlighted that Morales had asked forgiveness, but ratified "the importance of respecting the rights of indigenous peoples' and their right to be consulted in good faith through their representative organizations" prior to approving measures of projects that may affect them.
The Amazon natives complaint is precisely that the highway cut through their territory and no one consulted them previously.
After the riots and protests, Morales decided on Monday to suspend the road construction until the states of Cochabamba and Beni, through which the road will run, could be consulted.
"The Office once again reminds authorities of their obligation to project all people from any form of violence and to guarantee the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the right to freely protest in a peaceful manner," added the OHCHR statement.
Aymara leader Rafael Quispe, who is marching with the Amazon natives, stated to EFE that they have decided to meet in a town in the area to re-start their march to La Paz, possibly this week, although he did not provide a precise date or place.
For now the natives refuse to return to dialogue with Morales' ministers. Eight attempts at dialogue have already failed. They are determined not to negotiate until they reach La Paz, stated Adolfo Moyé, one of the native leaders of the TIPNIS (Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park).
According to Moyé, despite the rhetoric of the Executive Branch, the natives do not want the road to pass through the TIPNIS.
The natives and environmentalist groups reject the 300-mile long highway, which is funded by Brazil and will be built by the Brazilian company OAS, because they fear it will cause environmental damage to the TIPNIS and promote invasion of the park by lumber companies and coca farmers. Coca is the basic ingredient used to produce cocaine.