Three Indigenous Bolivian Villages Declare Autonomy Under New Constitution
By Dialogo February 10, 2009Three 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.