Mayors in the Bolivian Amazon to Expel USAID from Their Municipalities

Wilson Garcia Merida
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A transcendent fact has happened in the multicultural State of Bolivia. The mayors of the municipalities of the autonomous region of Pando, in the Bolivian Amazon, decided to expel from their jurisdictions the various NGOs, foundations and companies operating in this area with funding from the Agency of Cooperation of the United States (USAID in its acronym in English) noting that these entities "are those that generate internal conflicts within the country, interfering in our political process of national liberation to undermine the democratic legitimacy of our government," said a statement issued on July 6 by the municipal authorities of the Amazon frontier with Brazil and Peru. It was discovered that officials paid by USAID tried to provoke a split within the indigenous movement, placing the peasant organizations in the Bolivian Amazon region against the government that represents them.

The mayors of Pando decided to "expel from each of our municipalities NGOs, businesses, organizations and projects funded by USAID and its allies to end the deception of the international traffickers of biodiversity, ending the political maneuvers of the U.S. government in our rich Amazonian territory and liberate ourselves from old practices imposed by this perverse 'cooperation' whose cents degrade the conscience of our people, our brave peasants and indigenous representatives."

Between NGOs and foundations that must leave the autonomous territory of Pando, including the "Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF)", "Inheritance," "Puma", 'WCS Rainforest Alliance" and "Harmony," and that besides within the term that expires on July 30 next, are required to submit reports on their programs, projects and activities, as well as the source of its funding, in addition to amounts received in the last 10 years and the results achieved to date. "Otherwise, we will act, as part of the new State Constitution, before the courts of justice for violating our territorial and institutional independence and our sovereignty," said the statement issued by the Association of Local Municipalities of Pando (Amdepando).

The notice explains that through programs known as "Madre de Dios, Acre and Pando (MAP) and the "Initiative of the Amazon Basin" (ICCA), USAID and its NGO's converted the Amazonian Pando region "into a alienated land and acted inappropriately."

It further states that under the format of the "fight against poverty," and the "protection of the environment," with racist and capitalist approaches called "Protection of Indigenous Sceneries," they tried to replace the authority of municipalities and intervene politically by clandestinely circulating billions of dollars in the autonomous indigenous communities and rural areas to put the people against their own government, seeking to destabilize the regime which is governed by the indigenous leader, Evo Morales.

The so-called "effective management of biological diversity and environmental services," the document says, "is just a pretext for transnationalizing our natural resources, intervening in social organizations, seeking to align them with the interests of the empire for complete domination of our territories, forests and biodiversity." In the sovereign exercise of its powers under the new regime of autonomy established in the Constitution of Bolivia's current state, pandino municipalities declared the Pando region "Free Amazonian Territory," free from USAID.

With this declaration, the municipalities of the Amazon who support the decision of President Evo Morales Ayma, in late 2008 definitely formalized our intention to oust USAID from our country. "This is a historic, sovereign and exemplary gesture, aimed at achieving respect against arrogant foreign interventionism," says the document, in addition to declaring a state of emergency in our cities to defend our dignity and national sovereignty in the face of democratic destabilization brought about by the internal and external enemies of this process of change."

The municipal authorities warn that "from that date, no NGO, foundation, national or foreign company and / or project that is not approved by the mayors and city councils can cause any interference in our territory." The Pando region is located in the north of the Republic of Bolivia in an area of 64,000 square kilometers in the great Amazon basin, with more than 50,000 inhabitants according to the 2001 census, with five provinces, 15 municipalities and 51 districts.

It is one of the richest biodiversity areas in Bolivia and where there are more public lands available for distribution to indigenous peoples and landless from other parts of the country, a process that tries to be reversed by U.S. interference and the interests of landowners that led to the massacre of Indians on September 11, 2008, in the city of Porvenir.