322 Million U.S. dollars to destroy an indigenous population

Chances are you will never travel here, the nature preserve Territorio Indigena Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure, TIPNIS, where more than 15,000 indigenous people live in a national park meant to preserve their way of life and their surroundings. But soon you may be able to get there faster, if the government of Evo Morales, the Bolivian President, prevails in its attempt to build a road that will connect Brazil to ports in Chile and Peru, going right through this natural preserve in Bolivia.

Ironically, Evo Morales is an Aymara Indian who was elected in 2009 in a landslide, largely because of the support of the indigenous population in Bolivia. Now his support for this road is costing him the support of many native groups. He says that this road is essential to the economic growth of Bolivia. Brazil, which is funding and building the road, is saying that the road is fundamental to Bolivia’s integration with the rest of the region and all the other coca growers are nodding their heads. Yes, though Evo Morales is the democratically elected President of Bolivia, he is still the head of a coca growers trade union in Bolivia.

So whose interest is he really advocating? Well, this last Sunday it became clear who the police was siding with. Protesters were met with violence by the police and several officials from the Morales government resigned in protest against the police brutality.

I care about this issue because it is another example of little people who are living quietly somewhere being crushed by the rich and powerful who want to channel their riches cheaper and faster so they can get even more rich faster. In this case, it is not a secret that what will travel through that road is not only soy bean and crude oil. It is also drugs, exploited women and children, indentured servants, and a mass of humanity who will have to move because their way of life will be destroyed by a project whose aim, it is claimed, is to provide them with better opportunities in a global economy. This is the real “Road to Perdition.”

Brazil should stay out of this and leave it up to the Bolivians to decide. And the Bolivians who are affected by this decision the most should be the ones to be heard first. As it is, they were only an after thought, a footnote, an insignificant paragraph buried inside a shady book. Shame on Evo Morales and shame on the government of Brazil. You came armed with U.S. $322 million, the price tag on the road, to disrupt a small indigenous group whose only sin is to exist on the path between you and your prosperity. I hope you won’t succeed.

Ivanildo C. Trindade