Fernando Vargas is limping. The president of the TIPNIS natives is limping not only because he has blisters on his feet, but because five police officers kicked him in the chest and left him with three damaged ribs on the 25th of September. Guadalupe Cárdenas, wife of an officer, arrived at the Yolosa camp yesterday, untied Vargas' shoes, took off his socks, cleaned his wounds, and asked him for forgiveness on behalf of the nation's police force.
She is the wife of a police officer and yesterday, along with two other women, she left La Paz ashamed. With a bag of creams she began to heal the feet of the protesters, who continue to march. "On behalf of the troops I ask you for a thousand pardons and I want you to give me your feet so I can heal them," she said. She also told them she disagrees with the police assault that took place on the 25th of September at the Chaparina camp when uniformed officers attempted to disband the marchers who are protesting a highway the government wants to construct through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS).
Cárdenas did not only ask the 2000 natives to allow her to cure their wounded feet. "If you allow us to, hundreds of women will join you in this measure," she affirmed. The natives accepted only one thing: they allowed her to cure their feet but won't allow the women to march with them. "Why didn't you stop your husbands from attacking us. You should have reacted before and not now," said some of the marchers when the women asked their forgiveness. Cárdenas told the natives they are right to reject them, and that she understands how they feel.
After Fernando Vargas many of the other natives allowed the police officers' wives to cure their feet. Some were shy and even joked that their feet might smell bad. But the women gained their trust and told them they are their friends. They asked them to forgive them for what happened in Chaparina and told them they felt ashamed each time they saw the violent images of the police brutality on television. Francisca Tintaya, another police officer's wife, assured them that if the government should order another repression of their march, she and her family members would rebel.
As they cured the protester's feet, the marchers lay down on mattresses under makeshift roofs that shade them from the hot sun. They closed their eyes and some even fell asleep. Juan Soto was awake during the 15 minute session and stated no one had ever massaged his feet before. "How ironic. Their husbands beat us with sticks and the wives come to cure our feet," he said to one of his companions. Under the tents the feet healing sessions became a sort of ritual. Some even noted it was not unlike the time Christ washed the feet of his apostles. The women were quiet at first, delicately removing the natives' socks, blackened by mud and dust. They massaged their feet toe by toe, then their heels, and then applied creams to lessen the pain of the blisters.
Their aid was welcomed because today the natives will once again begin their long march at 8:00 a.m. They plan to march to the town of Sacramento, about 22 miles from Yolosa, where they will then rest for two days. Ahead, a steep and narrow path awaits.
Source: El Deber - Date: 14 Oct. 2011