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2010-04-21

Bolivian Indigenous Activists Call for End to Polluting Extractive Industries Inside Bolivia

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As the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change gets underway in Tiquipaya, an estimated 700 indigenous activists are continuing their occupation of a mining firm in the southeastern Bolivian province of Potosi. The Qulla people have blocked access to a key railway line from the San Cristóbal silver-zinc-lead mine owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation. They say Sumitomo is contaminating their land and water with mine waste. We speak to two activists from CONAMAQ, the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu. Herminia Colque and Gabino Apata Mamani want their concerns to be heard at the summit. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

We urge you to stay with us for this hour. While President Morales was not able to join us today — and we hope he will be with us tomorrow for the hour — we’re joined now by the organization CONAMAQ and its spokesperson, Gabino Apata Mamani. They have traveled three days to come to this World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, or in Quechua and Aymara it’s known as Pachamama.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Talk about why you are here.

GABINO APATA MAMANI:

[translated] Thank you very much. I’d like to extend greetings to the city of Tiquipaya, the whole world, Abya Yala, the Mother Earth, from the Council of Traditional Communities. I, myself, am from the department of Oruro. The reality where I live is by the border with Chile. It took us three days to get to the city of Cochabamba from our home, where we have come together to show the world that we’ve gone through so much sacrifice, wind and cold, to get to this place, rain and indeed hail in some places, to be able to show our reality and make known the situations that we’re facing, particularly regarding pollution.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you talk about the effects of climate change, of global warming, here in Bolivia on your community?

GABINO APATA MAMANI:

[translated] I am from a snowcapped mountain that for thousands of years has been snowcapped. It’s known as the Cerro Sajama, where we, ourselves, have seen — well, I can tell you, when I was six years old, I saw that the snow showed different colors at very — it was at a very high altitude that one would see the snow. I’m talking to you about 1967, and by 2000 and up to 2005. But there’s been so many changes in the snow, those different colors that had existed, that were at the summits, and the different designs one would see in the snow, well, that has now disappeared with the contamination of and the warming up of the planet.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you talk about what you’re hoping to accomplish here the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change?

GABINO APATA MAMANI:

[translated] We are hoping for results, that those brothers who have contaminated our Mother Earth, our Pachamama, as we call it, this Mother Earth — well, we want, as a result, that the capitalists who dominate this world and this planet with their knowledge, which inflicts harm on our Mother Earth — well, the result is that we want them to acknowledge this situation. And we also would like that their industries adapt to the planet, that they stop this abuse, that they stop polluting our environment and polluting the atmosphere.

AMY GOODMAN:

You’re part of one of the seventeen working groups here that are coming up with proposals to deal with climate change. Your group is on alternative financing. What are you doing in that group? What do you mean, “alternative financing”?

GABINO APATA MAMANI:

[translated] In this regard, as the Council of Traditional Communities, we are working in different working groups, the various working groups that have been set up in order to make our points and put forth our needs and to share our experiences in putting forth our needs. I, myself, am participating in working group twelve, on financing.

AMY GOODMAN:

I wanted to ask Herminia, who is standing next to you, how global — how climate change particularly affects women?

HERMINIA COLQUE:

[translated] Thank you, brothers and sisters. I extend greetings nationally and internationally. I am Herminia.

This is an important question. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, we’ve come to this summit here in Cochabamba. There are so many people from Bolivia and from around the world who have come here. Bolivia is impacted, and internationally there’s an impact. It’s not just Bolivia.

Us women in Bolivia, we live with our small plots, and we suffer more. Us women work like slaves. I am from Potosí, and capitalists come to Potosi, where there is a mountain called Huayna Potosí, but the wealth is no longer there. The mountaintop has been practically removed through mining. And that is why that we say “poor Bolivia.” And most of us from our community no longer live in Bolivia. Most live in Argentina. There is no life here in Bolivia. So, from 2005 to date, I have been working two years in Potosí. We marched thirty days from La Paz just with our babies and just as we [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to clarify for our viewers and listeners around the world that Potosí is the site of the largest silver mine in the world, a symbol of the exploitation of Bolivia. Also, right near there, in another silver mine in San Cristóbal, the miners have taken over. They are on strike as this summit is taking place. Why, Herminia, are the miners on strike?

HERMINIA COLQUE:

[translated] Those capitalist businesspersons continue working there. Now they no longer produce. Dirty water goes into the river. Agriculture has been ruined. The animals have died. We would now like projects that we can live from. We have babies, we have grandchildren.

AMY GOODMAN:

You, yesterday, were at Mesa 18. That is the workshop, the working group, that is not a part of the conference, and they’re critical of President Morales, though many of them supported him to be president, saying that he is — they’re concerned that he is not supporting indigenous rights enough over the extractive industries, like silver mining, like the extracting lithium. You were there, Herminia. Do you feel that way?

HERMINIA COLQUE:

[translated] Yes, I participated in the Mesa 18. And how we live in Bolivia is what we need to explain. Now, with CONAMAQ, with the [inaudible] or traditional communities, and with the grassroots, we are all coming to this summit. And we’re going to make proposals from the grassroots about what Bolivia needs. Now, thanks to God, we’re with Evo Morales Ayma. So we are with him, but up until now, it’s other countries that have really run Bolivia.

AMY GOODMAN:

Gabino Apata Mamani, we have one minute. And what is your last message to people around the world who are watching and listening to this broadcast at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change?

GABINO APATA MAMANI:

[translated] The only thing I’d like to say is that, as Herminia has just explained, about the negative impact or the advantages of mining, well, I had seen that from — in Oruro, 380 kilometers from here, there was a mine called Inti Raymi, that there were many claims because it was causing contamination of the soil. And this contamination even went to the Pacific Ocean. And so, we work with animals like the alpaca and the vicuña and the llama, but now we are seeing irregularities, such as the animals are being born deformed, with two heads, and so forth, and this has contaminated humankind.

AMY GOODMAN:

Thank you for being with us. That ends our broadcast. It’s been an honor to be with you, Gabino Apata Mamani, Herminia, and all of the CONAMAQ group, which is the indigenous group here, one of many that have come to the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

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