Thousands of Bolivians are marching toward the capital to protest a series of neo-liberal reforms proposed by the government. The indigenous and campesino marchers have been walking for nearly a month, beginning in the Amazon basin and snaking their way hundreds of miles up to the capital, La Paz. They are men and women, children and grandparents. They are demanding the government abandon the constitutional reforms they say will increase inequality and threaten their livelihoods.
The government reforms were drafted by an elite group of bureaucrats in consultation with the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank. The reforms pave the way for economic deregulation by actually eliminating key parts of the Bolivian constitution. The articles to be eliminated include respecting public lands, preserving cultural heritage, and fostering national economic independence.
The Bolivian marchers are expected to arrive in the capital within the next 24 hours. They intend to camp out in La Paz until the government agrees to sponsor a democratic assembly to analyze and propose its own constitutional reforms.
Meanwhile, concern is growing that the government will crack down on the protesters as they did two years ago during the water wars in Cochabamba. When Bechtel Corporation privatized the water industry and doubled and tripled water prices, protests erupted throughout the city. The government responded by firing on its citizens, killing one protester and wounding hundreds more.
- Derrick Hindery, Bolivia Coordinator, Amazon Watch. He is about to complete his Ph.D in Geography at UCLA.