Tariquía: when the defence of Pachamama is compatible with hydrocarbon extractivism.

Martintxo Mantxo (Rebelión)
(Main photo: Repression of the blockade in Tariquía. Photo: Verdad con Tinta)

«Mother Earth is not an object or a commodity, she is our mother».
Luis Arce, Intervention in the forum Reencuentro con la Pachamama, 23-04-2021


The current government of Luis Arce is still obstinately pushing for hydrocarbon exploitation in the Tariquía National Flora and Fauna Reserve. Obviously, this fact will provoke confussion among those who only remember the current Bolivian president reciting that beautiful plea in defence of Pachamama, Mother Earth at the 2021 Forum. But as we will see, unfortunately, this is not an isolated case either.

Opponents of hydrocarbon exploitation in the Tariquía National Flora and Fauna Reserve woke up on 29 January to a new threat of oil activity with the incursion of trucks carrying containers to house workers in the San Telmo area. This block was awarded to the Brazilian oil company Petrobras. Today, 6 February, we are informed of the start of exploitation in this reserve.

But so far, unlike what happened in the Astillero block, the affected communities have managed to stop the oil companies. It has taken years of marches to the capital Tarija and indefinite encampments and blockades to prevent the entry of machinery. San Telmo is located in the heart of the Tariquia Reserve. Seismic explorations (2D and 3D) have already been carried out in this block in 1998 and 2003.

The Comité Nacional de Defensa de la Reserva de Tariquía (National Committee for the Defence of the Tariquía Reserve) has resumed its mobilisations. The activists continue to pursue their last remaining legal options, based on the violation of the collective rights of both the communities and the citizens of Tarija and Bolivia. In particular, the rights to a healthy environment, which in this case should include the preservation of the Tariquía National Reserve. In addition to enjoying this protection, the Tariquía Reserve is important for the population because of its ecological richness, but in the case of the department and the city of Tarija, because it is the area that supplies water and also one of the areas of greatest agricultural production. To this end, they presented a new Peoples’ Action on 31st January, with the aim of annulling the contracts granted to Petrobras. However, these were dismissed by the Constitutional Chamber of Tarija. Its members, judges Ernesto Mur and Heldy Calderón, argued that collective rights were not a priority and that the Ministry of Hydrocarbons had already carried out a prior consultation and a relevant environmental impact study, which is not true.

The activists will now pursue the popular action by sending the decision to be reviewed by the Plurinational Constitutional Court. They also do not rule out filing a lawsuit at the international level.

Petrobras infrastructure incursion in Tariquía this January 2023.

In recent days, YPFB’s plan to exploit the hydrocarbon deposits in the Madre de Dios basin has also come to light: 12 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of associated gas and 5 billion barrels of oil. The announcement was made by YPFB’s own president Armin Dorgathen, according to him, after «noting that the Subandino Sur Basin has reached a certain degree of maturity». Again, this announcement is welcomed by the economic, capitalist or extractivist aspect, as it is equivalent to 475 billion dollars. The Madre de Dios basin corresponds to the Bolivian Amazon, an environmentally very sensitive area. There, the Cavineño people have already been affected by previous exploration.

The demagogy of Luis Arce and MAS

The Reencuentro con la Pachamama (Reencounter with Pachamama), forum which brought together different presidents, went viral for Luis Arce’s speech, as host of statements about Pachamama or Mother Earth (as he also referred to it) and against capitalism.  His speech, as host of forum took place on 23-04-2021, half a year after he became president, at a convulsive moment, after the imposed government of Jeanine Áñez and still in a period of pandemic. At the time it was inspiring and suggested a future of harmony with the environment, at least in that country. However, almost two years later, we can understand this speech as a great propaganda exercise; as more greenwashing of the same type to which big business get used to, especially in order to hide the real aims, which are extractivist, destructive of the environment and communities; full of rhetoric (it cites Pachamama and Mother Earth up to 33 times) and in conclusion, another case of demagogy to which we are accustomed by politicians.

We must not forget that although Luis Arce was elected president in November 2020, he had previously been Bolivia’s Minister of Economy and Public Finance in the MAS (Movement towards Socialism) governments of Evo Morales, between 2006 and 2017 (11 years) and subsequently until his deposition in November 2019, which meant that Arce was also responsible from that ministry for the promotion of many extractivist projects. These were the basis for the Bolivian economy to be restored.

Two important bills were presented at this event, one to typify the rights of nature and the other against ecocide. But this does not mean much if we take into account that already in 2010 the Law on the Rights of Mother Nature was enacted in Bolivia, and in 2016 and 2017 a Law on Ecocide that criminalised the destruction of ecosystems. However, the implementation of all of these laws is proving very difficult because Nature as an entity is incapable of presenting a case and in the face of the clear indifference of the government, which has used them to divert attention to its extractivist interests.

Exploitation by Petrobras has begun in Tariquía.

Various social organizations1, such as CONTIOCAP (Coordinadora Nacional de Defensa de los Territorios Indígenas Originarios Campesinos y Áreas Protegidas), denounced the government of Evo Morales as «championing the defence of Pachamama and the indigenous peoples» while promoting oil, mining and hydroelectric industries, deforestation for agrofuels and livestock production, and the use of the Pachamama as a source of energy.

The significance of Mother Earth or Pachamama for Luis Arce is evident in his statement on the announcement of the existence of a large gas field in the Margarita field, the Boicobo well, which he described as a «gift from Pachamama this Christmas». It will be operated by Repsol of Bolivia, British Shell, and Pan American Energy.

As in the case of Tariquía, opponents are branded as enemies of socialism and plurinationalism, enemies of the collective interest, of the national interest, of following other interests (political or partisan), or in the case of indigenous organisations, of wanting to divide the indigenous movement. The indigenous and environmentalist demagogy of the MAS fulfils this objective of claiming values from which they disqualify and delegitimise genuine defenders.

Meanwhile, despite these attempts at defamation, the defence of Tariquía is protected by the Bolivian Constitution and its legislation, as well as by international law, as the activists of the National Committee for the Defence of the Tariquía Reserve rightly point out.

  • See «The defence of Tariquía protected by Bolivian and international legislation».
March from Tariquía to Tarija (Photo: Igor Porcel)

Likewise, we cannot ignore the effect that the extraction of this oil and gas will have on the climate emergency, once it is consumed and burned. We must remember that Bolivia and the government of Evo Morales initially led the demand of some countries of the South for climate justice and in the face of the failure of the United Nations Climate Conferences (COP), more specifically the one in Copenhagen in 2009. It organised the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010 in Tiquipaya, and a second one in 2015. This extractivist devotion clearly contradicts these commitments.

Bolivian fossil fuel extractivism

Bolivia is the main exporter of gas in South America despite being the sixth country in terms of reserves. The department of Tarija is Bolivia’s main gas producer with 5.563,37  million cubic metres. Together with Santa Cruz (4,984.36 million m3) it almost covers Bolivia’s total gas production, accounting for 1,547.73 million m out of a total of 12,946.12 million m3.

Gas is Bolivia’s main export and the resource on which its economy is based, and for this reason, it was going to be fundamental in Evo Morales’ government. Despite his initial proposals, Morales also focused his policy on extractivism, in which, in addition to hydrocarbons, we must add mining and energy production from large infrastructures. Evo Morales came to government in 2006 as a representative of the country’s majority indigenous movement, which had never been in power sine the Spanish colonization, and after the gas conflict (Gas War, 2005).

After the Gas War, Morales proposed the nationalisation of the sector that had been privatised in 1994. He did so in part because none of the companies were expropriated or expelled, but rather renegotiated the contracts and conditions, making them more favourable to Bolivia. Petrobras remained in the country while Repsol sold some of its assets to the government, although it continued in the country: Repsol extracts gas in Caipipendi (Margarita-Huacaya field), Sábalo and San Alberto, also in Tarija; Patuju, Corohuaicho, La Peña-Tundy, Sauces and Río Grande in Santa Cruz; Mamoré and Paloma-Surubi in Cochabamba; and others.

Caipipendi is one of the largest gas blocks in the world with a daily production of 14 million m3 (2013) mainly destined to supply Argentina. Its contract was extended in 2016 until 2046. Production from the Margarita 7 well (3 million m3 per day of gas) is also destined for export. In the Margarita field it also operates since 2019 the Boicobo Sur X1 well of 28,317 million m³ (1,800 barrels of gas condensate per day), and Boyuy X-2, the deepest in South America at 7,862 metres.

Repsol has caused serious impacts with its gas exploitation in Campo Margarita in Tarija that have reverberated in the  guaraní Itika Guasu people. These impacts should be taken into account now that a new extractive project is being considered in this department. Impacts include loss of biodiversity (fauna, vegetation), deforestation; noise, water (aquifers, rivers) and soil pollution. In turn, these impacts have affected the health of communities, and at the social level with the appearance of problems such as alcoholism and prostitution, increased violence and delinquency, loss of traditional culture, displacement, machismo and gender violence, and loss of livelihoods.

Incidents with serious consequences such as pipeline ruptures and spills from infrastructure such as the one in Chuquisaca (also by Repsol) in 2017 that affected three communities should also be taken into account.

Petrobras has been operating in Tarija since 2001 where it extracts gas at the San Alberto plant, from where it exports it to Brazil through the Bolivia-Brazil pipeline. Petrobras also operates the Sábalo and Itaú fields in Tarija, as well as the Colpa and Caranda fields in the department of Santa Cruz.

Neither nationalisation nor overcoming fossil fuel dependence

As we have said, the alleged nationalisation claimed by the Evo Morales government was never such. According to Nelson Cila Santos, only 15 per cent of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon resources are currently in national hands, while 85 per cent belong to foreign companies. These include Total, Repsol, Petrobras and the Argentinian company PAE. In some fields, such as Margarita Huacaya or Boyuy, national participation is non-existent. The surrender to foreign companies is similar to that of the Sánchez de Lozada government, which provoked the Gas War.

Furthermore, according to what has come to light after attempts to gather data on the activity of the state-owned YPFB, both it and other state-owned companies such as Entel are registered as corporations, which prevents them from being supervised by citizens. This reduces transparency and the capacity for peoples’ monitoring, and therefore affects democracy and the way in which these resources and services, and the capital they generate, are used.

But what we have is a strong economic dependence on hydrocrab resources, as well as on mining extractivism, which was the basis of Bolivia’s historic economy, and which has not been overcome in the last 17 years, but rather has increased, as confirmed by the new attempts at exploitation.

Evidence of this extractivist deepening is the Morales government’s decision to promote fracking in the Chaco, coinciding with the departments of Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and, above all, Tarija. The agreement between the state-owned YPFB and the Canadian company Cancabria was announced in Tarija itself at the «Inversiones Gas y Petróleo Tarija» meeting, in which the government brought together the oil companies Shell, Repsol, Vintage and Petrobras.

After the oil price crisis caused by the introduction of fracking oil and other reasons in 2014, the government of Evo Morales escalated its extractivist policies by modifying legislation in 2015, allowing the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in the entire sub-Andean area of the country. This expanded the oil frontier from 2.5 million hectares to 29 million hectares.

This increase in hydrocarbon exploitation is also evident in the increase in the number of wells since 2008, from 3 the previous year to 11, with 2013 being the high point with 61 new wells installed.

Bolivia – Natural Gas Production by Department by Year and Month 2001 – 2022 2

This decision imposed economic urgency and public interest over aspects that had previously prevailed and had brought him to power in 2006, such as respect for the environment, the search for solutions to the climate emergency, and even the rights of indigenous peoples. Likewise, this decision contradicted the Bolivian Constitution itself, which, among its articles, contemplates the protection of Mother Earth and prior consultation.

Through Supreme Decree 2366, the government authorised the development of hydrocarbon activities in San Telmo and Astilleros within the protected area of Tariquía. More than a dozen extraction projects are involved, including Domo Osso X1 and X2.

Tariquía, one of the reserves affected by the new law

The Tariquía National Flora and Fauna Reserve was created in 1989 by decree of the Víctor Paz Estensoro government to stop the advance of logging companies. But drilling had already been carried out in the 1980s and 1990s, and currently there are up to four overlapping oil areas in the protected area. Morales then made statements claiming that the forest reserves had been «created by the North American empire«, which wants ‘untouchable, intangible’ territories in the third world to compensate for its own crimes against the environment. He then set out his real option: ‘we have an obligation to explore what we have’.

In the case of the Tariquía National Flora and Fauna Reserve, as estimated by the Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia (Cedib), at least 55 per cent of the area of the Tariquía National Flora and Fauna Reserve will be affected, representing 136,277 hectares of the 247,435 hectares that make up the nature reserve. This 55% of the reserve has been concessioned to foreign oil companies such as Shell and Petrobras.

The response was automatic and in 2016 there was already the first community march against exploration in Tariquía. The companies responsible for the exploitation are none other than the Brazilian state-owned Petrobras (75%) and the Bolivian state-owned YPFB (25%), which signed a joint exploitation agreement in 2017. Although they tried to start the activity, in 2019 the government decided to suspend its development due to the blockade by community members.

The exploration of the San Telmo (Petrobras) and Astillero (YPFB) hydrocarbon projects would affect the areas of Campoblanco, Motoví, Chiyaguata and Cambarí. From the beginning, the communities living in Tariquía have been opposed to the project due to their knowledge of existing impacts in other extraction zones. This is why they have mobilised. From 24 to 27 April 2017, they marched 120 kilometres and three days from the reserve to the department capital, Tarija, against the oil companies. At the end of October 2018, the communities in the area staged the first road blockade to prevent the company from carrying out the last studies that would allow it to obtain the Environmental Licence.

Since 7 February 2019, the communities have staged a blockade that managed to stop Petrobras and the police from entering the area, but on 26 February, the company unexpectedly entered the territory under police guard, using deception. After the provisional withdrawal of Petrobras (1 March), the communities of Chiquiacá formed a defence committee that is on permanent vigilance to prevent the oil company’s occupation. On that day, a blockade was set up on the Vallecito Los Lapacho bridge to prevent Petrobras from entering the area. In August 2022, the community of Puesto Rueda also set up a new blockade.

Community blockade in Tariquía.


Over communities and indigenous peoples

Likewise, despite his origins and initial proposals, Evo Morales imposed extractivist projects throughout his mandate, violating indigenous rights in up to 77 cases, including the right to prior consent, and above all in the area of hydrocarbons. This was also corroborated in the Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2022. Such is the case of the road project through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), which, as in the case at hand (Tariquía), is also a National Park. The project was not only imposed on the indigenous communities, but they were also severely repressed. Another case of projects that affected indigenous peoples was the El Chepete-El Bala hydroelectric project or the El Sillar electricity connectivity project, or the Ichilo Mamoré waterway.

Thus, in December 2018, a National Congress of Integration in Defence of Territories and Protected Areas was held in the Tariquía reserve itself, in the community of Pampa Grande, which brought together activists and representatives of all these struggles. As a result, they formed a National Coordinating Committee (CONTIOCAP) demanding that the «national government definitively cancel all extractivist projects and megaprojects within protected areas and indigenous territories».

Of these 77 cases of abuse of indigenous peoples, there are many related to the hydrocarbon sector, because the change in legislation in 2015 meant that environmental protections were ignored, but so too were the communities that inhabited them. Thus, the MAS government has launched a war against any community that opposes its project.

Map of extractivist conflicts with Bolivia’s indigenous peoples (Los Tiempos)

Among the violations recorded are: the awarding of the Liquimuni block to YPFB (2008); of the oil block in the intangible zone of the indigenous people in voluntary isolation Toromona (2008); exploration in the Liquimuni block in the territory of the Mosetene-OPIM people (2009); seismic exploration from 2009 to 2012 that affected Amazonian peoples; exploration of the Liquimuni-Sararia Sector Block in indigenous territory in 2012; restriction of movement of indigenous people by Petrobras in the San Antonio field in 2009; Britsh Gas operations in Weenhayek territory (2008-2015); oil operations in Margarita-Caipipendi block affecting the Ava Guaraní people (2009-2013); deficient consultation in the drilling of the Incahuasi II well (2012); exploitation of Caipipipendi-Caipipendi-Caipipendi block by Repsol in Itika Guasu territory (2005-2010); exploration and exploitation by Petroandina and China Eastern Petroleum & Gas S. A. without prior consultation with the Guaraní Tucainti indigenous people of the Aguaragüe and Sanandita mountains (2010-2012); impacts of exploration without consultation with YPFB-Petroandina on the Guaraní of Timboy (2013); Guaraní indigenous people rejected exploration in the San Antonio Block and the flawed consultation with blockades in the Chaco (2013); impacts on communities due to diversion and alterations of the Parapeti River by Total (2014); destruction of a Guaraní sacred site by the same oil company in Caraparicito (2015); YPFB’s violation of consultation and police repression in Takovo Mora territory (2015); YPFB’s fracking project in Guaraní territory (2011-2013); YPFB’s exploration in the Madre de Dios Basin (2015); exploitation in uncontacted indigenous territory by BGP that provokes contact (2016); uncontacted Ayoreo people threatened by exploration (2016-2017); exploitation of the Azero block by Total and GP in the Iñao protected area (2013-2016) and others.

And the most recent ones that we have already dealt with from the Cavineño people, one of the 36 ethnic groups recognised by the Bolivian Constitution, affected by BGP’s exploration in 2017. These people will again be affected by the recent plans of the Arce government to also exploit the Bolivian Amazon.

This extractivist policy responsible for the violation of the rights of nature and violations of indigenous rights was denounced at the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in Santiago de Chile in 2019, which demanded a sanction against the MAS government.

A cornerstone of MAS and Evo Morales’ policy was Plurinationality, based on the country’s ethnic diversity and as recognition of all cultures and nations. However, this also seems to have failed within their policies, being reduced above all to the Andean people and relegating almost all of the 36 official nationalities.

According to environmental lawyer Paola Cortez, between 1991 and 2018, no consultation of indigenous peoples had taken place in Bolivia with regard to hydrocarbon activities3.  This is also the case in these projects in Tariquía, where the communities have not been informed either by the government or by the oil companies. According to article 115 of Law 3058, only prior consultation allows for the initiation of any environmental impact study or contract.

All this continued and increased with the governments of Jeanine Áñez (Unidos) and the current government of Luis Arce Catacora (MAS). In the 2021 election campaign, oil exploration in Tariquía was central, and it was evident that both main parties were promoting it: both the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) and Unidos had subsidiary responsibility for the project. In the Tariquía Reserve itself, oil is already being exploited in the Los Monos-Aguaragüe Centre and in Astillero.

The transcendental role of women

The struggle for the defence of Tariquí, in the communities and in Tarija, has a strong female component. So far, the history of the Tariquí women’s struggle has coincided with that of other socio-environmental struggles. Defence not only contains the territorial key, but has also meant confronting a series of multiple forms of violence that communities and women face when they decide to oppose the state-capitalist intentions that want to strip them of their means of existence.

In the case of state repression of their activists, we are faced with a  patriarchal offensive . On 14 February 2019, at a press conference, officials from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons, and mainly Edith Condori, threatened three leaders of Tariquía, accusing them of gender violence and intimidation under the cover of Law 348. The events took place during a visit by the officials to socialise the projects that would benefit the communities that agree with the presence of oil companies in the reserve. In fact, these projects are one of the government’s identified strategies to divide the communities. The accused communities and leaders – including two women and one man – denied the accusation.

The news collective Página Siete lists different types of violence used by the state to a greater extent against women who oppose hydrocarbon projects in Tariquía, including «intimidation, intimidation, insults, persecution, blackmail, hostility and bribery».

(Photo: La Tinta)


  • Petrobras, a Brazilian transnational.

Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.) was founded in 1953 by the Brazilian government. But today its ownership is limited to half, 65% (of which 10% by the Brazilian Development Bank and the Fundo Soberano do Brasil), the rest being privately owned. It is the 10th largest oil company by market capitalisation in the world1 and the 65th largest public company in the world, according to Forbes Global 2000 (2020). Currently, according to the Observatorio Social do Petroleo, Petrobras produces around 80% of the fuels consumed in Brazil.

In recent years, Petrobras, like other Brazilian state-owned companies, has been the target of privatisation attempts, which have not been consummated, but it has been partially privatised in segments such as the country’s second largest refinery and the agrofuels subsidiary, Petrobras Biocombustível.

Petrobras operated as a further transnationalisation after the liberalisation of markets in 1990, especially in the nearby geographical area, Latin America, and the culturally and historically close one, Portuguese Africa. This foreignisation increased from 2008 onwards with the crisis and the emergence of the so-called emerging economies or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). By 2009 it was already present in 26 countries.

But the discovery of new deposits in its territory caused it to focus on this oil and to abandon international activity. But this was not the only reason: in many countries it was also expelled or its contracts were not renewed, as in Ecuador. But even in Brazil itself, its unethical practices stand out. Of all the countries in which it operated, Bolivia is one of the few in which it continues. In this country, too, it is also the source of allegations and paralysed projects.

(See full report on Petrobras)

Protest by artisanal fishermen from Guanabara Bay at Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro after the death of two colleagues (Photo: Antonio Scorza AFP/GettyImages)


  • YPFB

YPFB or Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Boliviano (not to be confused with the Argentinian company of the same name, YPF) was created as a public company by the Bolivian government on 21 December 1936. Since 1985, the country has been undergoing structural adjustments aimed at paying off its foreign debt through the sale of public assets. In 1996, the government dismembered YPFB and sold it at a derisory price to foreign capital, dividing it between the companies Andina, Chaco, Petrobras and Transredes (owned by the bankrupt Enron). This sale of the national patrimony was linked to the discovery of new gas deposits, the second largest in South America, precisely in Tarija, and the government’s decision to export it. This decision clashed with the reality of local shortages and the popular desire to make use of this gas. To these demands were added the creation of a Constituent Assembly. All this provoked popular discontent that led to the so-called Gas War of 2003. The protest was harshly repressed, resulting in more than 70 deaths. The protests led to the overthrow of President Sánchez de Lozada. Carlos Mesa replaced him as president in 2004. He called for a referendum on hydrocarbon ownership, including the elimination of Sánchez de Lozada’s Hydrocarbons Law, and the re-founding of YPFB. The result ratified these demands by an overwhelming majority. As a result, a new Hydrocarbons Law was introduced that taxed hydrocarbon production at 32%, but kept royalties at 18%. But Carlos Mesa refused to ratify this law. Then the social movements took to the streets again and demanded the full nationalisation of hydrocarbons. Mesa was also forced to resign.

In the next elections (2005), Evo Morales Ayma stood as the representative of the indigenous majority and of these anti-independence proposals. This is how he once again carried out the nationalisation of the gas industry in 2006, which is none other than the purchase of the nationalised parts of YPFB from its owners and its re-foundation as a company. In this process, higher profits applied for the Bolivian state, 82% royalties in its favour.

Since then, YPFB has become a key player in oil and gas exploitation in Bolivia, participating in many of the projects, and thus sharing environmental and social responsibilities with the rest of the foreign companies. YPFB’s 2010 Investment Programme included 105.

In recent days, YPFB’s plan to exploit the hydrocarbon deposits in the Madre de Dios basin has also come to light: 12 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of associated gas and 5 billion barrels of oil. The announcement was made by YPFB’s own president Armin Dorgathen, according to him, after «noting that the Subandino Sur Basin has reached a certain degree of maturity». Again, this announcement is welcomed by the economic, capitalist or extractivist aspect, as it is equivalent to 475 billion dollars. The Madre de Dios basin corresponds to the Bolivian Amazon, an environmentally very sensitive area. There, the Cavineño people have already been affected by previous exploration (more information at the end of the article, in the section on YPF).

In none of the published information is there any mention of the possible environmental impact, despite the fact that this is a vast, previously unexploited area that coincides with delicate Amazonian jungle ecosystems. A previous exploration carried out in 2008 also failed to include environmental impacts (‘Evaluación del Sistema Petrolifero de la Cuenca de Madre de Dios de Bolivia’).

This area was one of those included in the expansion of the hydrocarbon frontier in 2015. In fact, the Bolivian Amazon was the most affected area (72%). Exploration began in 2017, but did not lead to exploration as such until now. Even then, Evo Morales’ Minister of Hydrocarbons, Luis Alberto Sánchez, considered it to be the future of Bolivia’s hydrocarbons. A new example of the extractivist vocation of that and the current government.

The Madre de Dios river is a tributary of the Beni, and in turn of the Madeira, and the latter of the Amazon. It rises in Peru, but above all it flows through Bolivian territory where it crosses it at its northernmost point, through the department of Pando, and also through the departments of Beni and La Paz. The Madre de Dios River is already polluted by gold mining activity in Peru and Bolivia, but this new exploitation will undoubtedly add even more. Moreover, all of this continues to pollute the rest of the rivers and lately the Amazon.

In this area live the Cavineño people who were already affected by the exploration carried out by the Chinese company BGP. This exploration included more than 2000 kilometres of 2D seismic lines. The explosions from the seismic prospecting affected the underground aquifers as well as the El Tapau lagoon. This in turn led to fish kills and thus food resources, as well as forest clearance, which together with the noise of chainsaws, drill rigs, and helicopters drove animals away, affecting the protein supply of 14 communities. Another source of food and income for these people, chestnuts, has also been reduced. They also denounce the effects of the creation of roads and highways, and land compaction.

The Organisation of Indigenous Women of the North of the Bolivian Amazon (OMINAB) assists the communities to manage the impacts and their responses and actions. This case was well covered in a Mongabay Latam article.


CEDIB (Centro de Documentación e Información de Bolivia), CSUTB (Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia), Colectivo Árbol de Santa Cruz, Bartolina Sisa, CSCIOB, CONAMAQ, CSMCIB, CONTIOCAP (Coordinadora Nacional de Defensa de los Territorios Indígenas Originarios Campesinos y Áreas Protegidas).

3 Paola Cortez, conference «Environment and oil legislation in Bolivia», Cátedra Libre Marcelo Quiroga, UMSA, Paraninfo Universitario, 17 May 2018.

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