We the undersigned have been inspired by Bolivia’s social movements that have shown that another world is possible. From the Water War in Cochabamba to the approval of a new constitution and a plurinational state in 2009, Bolivia has shown that it possible to challenge and present alternatives to postcolonialist states, neoliberalism, multinational power and US imperialism.
The election of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales and the MAS government, heralded great hope for advancing not just a more socially-just country, but a new international vision for a just society and a harmonious relationship with Nature rooted in the profound indigenous concept of ‘Buen Vivir’. Bolivia rightly became recognised on the international stage for its advocacy of Mother Earth rights and for its prophetic voice at UN climate summits and particularly for its hosting of the historic World Peoples Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010 in Cochabamba.
It is with profound disappointment, then, that we hear that one of the key organisers of the historic Cochabamba climate summit, Pablo Solón, along with Rafael Archondo, is being threatened by the Bolivian government with criminal charges and potential jail sentences of up to four years. The accusations six years on that allege Solón “illegally appointed” Archondo and that Archondo committed the crime of “prolonging functions in the Permanent Mision of Bolivia to the UN” can only be seen as attempts to silence Solón for his vocal criticism of the government and the construction of two giant hydroelectric projects, El Bala and El Chepete in the Amazonian region.
These mega-dams, if built, also run completely against any vision of ‘Buen Vivir’. According to the government’s own commissioned studies, done by the Italian firm Geodata, they would inundate an area five times larger than Bolivia’s city of La Paz, displace more than 5000 indigenous peoples, and deforest more than 100,000 hectares. The evidence is also that they are not even economically viable given the current prices of electricity in Brazil.
We also note that the accusations against Solón and Archondo are not isolated cases, but are part of a series of threatened and implemented legal actions against individuals as well as attempts to close organisations in Bolivia that have a proud record of advancing social and environmental justice. This attempt to silence dissent goes against the principles of Bolivia’s new constitution and is deeply troubling for the potential long-term success of Bolivia’s revolution. Participatory democracy depends on a rigorous and robust debate, while environmental justice can only happen if communities at the frontlines of extraction are supported and empowered rather than silenced and criminalised.
We therefore urge you to drop the false charges against Pablo Solón and Rafael Archondo and stop the hugely destructive El Bala and El Chepete mega-dam projects. Bolivia will have no credibility on climate change and the rights of Mother Earth if it invests in mega-dams and persecutes its principal environmental defenders. We urge the Bolivian government to show that its international rhetoric on ‘Buen Vivir’ and the defense of Mother Earth is not empty rhetoric, but is reflected in its policies and practices at home.
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