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By Pablo Cingolani and Patricia Molina
The North American company Geokinetics, subcontracted by Petroandina, is drilling the seismic lines that cross the Mosetén indigenous territory and in mid-August, massive detonations of dynamite will begin that will irreversibly aggravate the environmental and social damage that the exploratory work is already causing. This is a violation of the rights of this indigenous people, and will promote a point of no return for the survival of the fragile ecosystem of the Bolivian Southern Amazon.
The morning newspaper El Diario of the city of La Paz, on Thursday, July 2, 2009, published the following statement by the Minister of Hydrocarbons of the Bolivian Plurinational State, Oscar Coca, regarding the start of Phase 2 of the Lliquimuni oil project, already within of indigenous territory: “It is not correct, it is not true that exploration and exploitation processes were beginning. What happens is that in the area the company has to make visits, at least to identify some areas ”. With reference to complaints made by indigenous leaders and the Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development (FOBOMADE).
So far, the minister has not made any announcement that refutes this statement. For this reason, we say it firmly, and for the world to know: the North American company Geokinetics, subcontracted by Petroandina, is already drilling the seismic lines that cross the Mosetén indigenous territory and towards the middle of August, the worst will begin: the massive detonations of dynamite that will irreversibly aggravate the environmental and social damage that the exploratory work is already causing. (You can see it on video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q5iuyaI0Pg)
This scandalous situation, in violation of all the rights of this indigenous people, and which will promote a point of no return for the survival of the fragile ecosystem of the Bolivian southern Amazon, was verified in the place by us on a trip to the Mosetenes communities and their territories where the Yankee company is operating.
What has been seen and heard is more like the images and testimonies of a war not undertaken against the Mosetenes communities than the much proclaimed "development policy of the North of La Paz."
What we have seen are communities invaded by oil tankers.
Camps everywhere, company vans and trucks, buses and trucks coming and going, men dressed in orange swarming like ants (orange is the color of Geokinetics uniforms).
Teams of workers who have not even asked permission from the residents of the communities and have gone to work as if they were their property.
We saw seismic lines running through the houses of the communities. Through the patios of the houses, where the children play! Through the hygienic bathrooms, the soccer fields.
We saw landmarks of the seismic lines, with their red band marking (which means explosion) at meters where men or women lived in peace and quiet, until the men in orange arrived.
We saw how those same seismic lines enter the virgin forest, and they have already cut trees and deforested, opening gaps and spaces for compressors, which exceed those stipulated. Did you see any chaco (plantation) out there? intrigued community members asked us. No, we said: it was untouched forest, we answered, after having traveled kilometers of the line.
In one case, we saw astonished, with the residents who denounced it, how the seismic line went directly towards the slope of the community, towards its only spring, located up the hill.
We hear his story that there is no agreement, no commitment, or anything to respect this source of the vital element.
That nobody has guaranteed what will happen, let alone talked about compensation in the event of a disaster.
Which, in fact, is what they fear. Not only because of the water, but because, since the company arrived (and without asking permission) and turned on the machines, they have not seen any more birds (the noise is incessant), nor animals (that hunted for food), since they don't even let them get near the forest. To his forest.
Take care of the children, the company tells them, because here there are explosives: as if they were to blame for all this disaster on their peaceful and harmonious life with nature as always.
What would happen, we become distressed, if a child goes and passes and steps where they say he should not? Why so much madness?
Take care of the kids - and the helicopters that fly over the area all day, every day. (It can be seen in video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q5iuyaI0Pg)
We keep hearing: that they were not informed of anything that is happening.
That something, once, they told them but that nobody told them that this was going to be like that.
To begin with, those of the company were going to install themselves, just like that, inside the community soccer field!
And they are going to blow it up, brother! In Villa Concepción, we have found one of the landmarks of the seismic line on one of the sides of the field, less than two hundred meters from the houses. And it wasn't the stick in the corner: it was one of the damn landmarks with the red headband.
But we saw more, and just as painful as the above.
We saw persecuted leaders. Leaders who cannot sleep in their communities, with their wife and children. Because they harass, insult or hit them. We saw families divided and fighting among themselves, the father with the son, the brother with the other brother, because of all this.
We saw not only harassed leaders and estranged families, but entire communities besieged. Like what happened in Simay, the night of July 15. (You can see it in a video, if you go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7G_oYDpKlQ)
We saw, we heard, we felt the absurd division of an indigenous people. From a people that pre-existed to the colony, to the republic, to Bolivia, to everything: a people that now that we have a Plurinational State we believed would be stronger than ever, more united than ever, more proud of its culture, more rooted in their worldview.
We wonder: if this is not an invasion / aggression / subjugation of indigenous communities ... what is it?
People are upset, uneasy, fearful. People did not expect this: they spoke vaguely of "development" and "progress". Never about what is happening: something much more dangerous and dramatic than those already dangerous and dramatic words.
We ask ourselves: what will happen when the detonations begin? What will happen when the dynamite explodes?
The brothers, who were never informed about the negative impacts that the oil activity would bring, are already imagining it.
And they and we, that is, all of us who are aware of the damage that is being caused to the Mosetenes, we are not only worried, but horrified.
Oil or the rights of the peoples
There is no sufficient reason to justify what we are describing (and we invite everyone to go to the Mosetenes communities to certify it) since no paradox is resolved.
And what is happening in the Southern Amazon of Bolivia is paradoxical, since everything noted happens within the framework of the existence of the first Plurinational State of the world, headed by Evo Morales Ayma, the first indigenous president in Bolivian history.
That Minister Coca denies that the company that is operating is the North American Geokinetics.
That Minister Coca denies that this company is operating in indigenous territory.
That Minister Coca denies that the communities do not understand what is happening, that their way of life is being altered, that their human rights are being violated.
That Minister Coca denies that today in Bolivia a deplorable seismic study to search for oil is worth more than the rights of the Mosetén indigenous people.
The paradoxes are not resolved. It is the history of the peoples that always finds its own channel.
La Paz, July 29, 2009