Three Indigenous Bolivian Villages Declare Autonomy Under New Constitution

By Dialogo
February 10, 2009

Three indigenous towns in Isoboro Secure National Park, located in the center of Bolivia between the ‎departments of Cochabamba and Beni, were the first to declare their autonomy under the new ‎Constitution, local press reported today.‎ Yesterday representatives of 64 communities of Moxeños, Yuracarés, and Chimanes, from the Isoboro ‎Secure National Park and Indian Territory (TIPNIS), delivered to their authorities a statute of ‎autonomy to be submitted to referendum as established in the new constitution which was enacted on ‎Saturday by President Evo Morales.‎ The Secretary of Autonomy of TIPNIS, Benigno Noza, confirmed on local television that his region is ‎the first to join the “autonomous indigenous territory” and recalled the fight of their indigenous ‎brothers who in 1990 “marched for land, territory, and dignity.” ‎ The constitution adopted by the Bolivians in a referendum on January 25 recognizes the "native-‎originated indigenous autonomy" as "self-government as an exercise of the free determination of native ‎nations and peoples."‎ According to the new constitution, Bolivia has 36 indigenous or native populations characterized by ‎sharing "their own territory, culture, history, languages, and organization or judicial, political, social ‎and economic institutions."‎ The three populations affected by this declaration of autonomy, which occupy four municipalities in ‎the departments of Cochabamba (center) and Beni (northeast), are the first to announce their ‎implementation of the provisions of the new constitution.‎ However, the constitution does not specify how autonomy will be administered, but says that "the law ‎establishes minimum requirements of population and other characteristics for the establishment of ‎native-originated indigenous autonomy."‎ The president of the Chimán community’s grand council, Jorge Yáñez, said in statements to Erbol that ‎their territory has "many natural resources" and several productive functions, and showed interest in ‎‎"coordinating with the government to develop and channel projects” to benefit the entire population.‎ ‎"We need financial resources to implement productive activities. And we need professional technical ‎assistance to guide and to empower us so that we can succeed," he said.‎ According to data from the National Protected Areas (Sernap), mentioned by Erbol, Isoboro Secure ‎Park houses a rich biodiversity, with over 600 species of birds, a great variety of flora, and 714 species ‎of fauna, as well as archaeological sites.