In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a more inclusive “people-centric” global development agenda that included acquiring control of natural resources for the benefit of all. The day before, CLACS students and guests heard a very different story about the Morales government’s inclusion of indigenous groups in Bolivia’s economic development from 5 indigenous Bolivian women and one ally as part of the “Dialogue on Indigenous Rights: The Issues of Autonomy and Consultation in the Plurinational State of Bolivia” event held in the King Juan Carlos Center.
Organized by CLACS professor Pamela Calla, the women, Nilda Rojas Huanka, Toribia Lero Quispe, Clara Victoria Ramos Aillón, Judith Rivero, Wilma Mendoza, and Sarela Paz, representing indigenous groups from across Bolivia, came to CLACS prior to their attendance at the United Nations Indigenous Peoples World Conference. Each woman spoke on a different element of indigenous relationships with the Morales government and economic development including the lack of environmental protections, the preeminence of laws that protect the mining industry over constitutional safeguards for indigenous rights, and the political co-option and subversion of the alliance between CIDOB and CONAMAQ—the two largest confederations of indigenous governing bodies in Bolivia.
Each of these moving testimonials revealed the challenges that remain for indigenous groups in Bolivia. In a country that adopted a new constitution in 2009 and declared itself “plurinational” in order to promote increased autonomy for its indigenous groups, the women told how these rights have been rolled back or overridden in the following years. The question remained whether the plurinational government of Bolivia could be inclusive while developing the country’s economy and resources.
One of the persistent threads in each presentation was the need to have indigenous voices heard in the Bolivian legislature and public and, where that is not possible, to raise consciousness on an international scale. Through our academic work and community events, NYU’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies seeks to give a platform for voices that would otherwise go unheard.
Find out more about the work going on at CLACS and our events here.
Posted by CLACS-MA student Patrick Moreno-Covington.