Bolivia: Land conflicts

Control over land continues to be the central issue for the poor, especially for indigenous people. The region of Moxos situated in the Northern district of River Beni has always been the natural habitat of indigenous people. In the course of time, however, indigenous people have lost 90 per cent of their land. Large, unproductive and fallow landholdings now exist side by side with hundreds of thousands of people having insufficient or no land at all. To address this situation, the Multi-ethnic Indigenous Territory (MIT) covering 430,000 ha. was created in 1990 by a Supreme Decree. It took, however, 11 years to implement the legal provisions acknowledging the rights of indigenous people over their land. Rather than disappearing, the conflicts have continued. Since 1971 the Centre for Research and the Promotion of the Peasantry (CIPCA, www.cipca.org.bo), promoted by the Jesuits and committed to sustainable rural development, has worked to strengthen indigenous and peasant movements. In October 2002, CIPCA facilitated the creation of a local Commission to document 36 cases of violation of cultural, educational, and land-related rights. The Centre has also provided technical support to the Commission and other movements to present to the authorities and the media a document stating their demands. By removing CIPCA?s presence from the region, big landholders and cattle breeders hope to attack the root cause of their problems. Jesuits and CIPCA collaborators have been threatened. On the 24 November, a cattle-breeder attacked physically a young professional working with CIPCA, and the Pastor of St. Ignatius of Moxos, Enrique Jorda SJ, member of the local Human Rights Assembly. ?We are worried that in Bolivia land conflicts continue to happen as a matter of habit,? affirms a member of CIPCA. ?The great efforts of social organisations and of international co-operation have not resulted in any real progress.? [HL21202]