Bolivian President Evo Morales this week accused the United States government of conspiring with local NGOs to incite the ongoing indigenous protest marches that began on August 16. The Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) inhabitants, the Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia (Cidob) and the Consejo Nacional de Ayllus y Markas del Qullasuyu (Conamaq) are marching in opposition to the construction of a highway that would cross a 9,997 square kilometer (2,470,400 acre) national park that has been a self-governing territory since 2009.
“Capitalism and non-governmental organizations use indigenous leaders to promote a march whose objective is not the protection of natural resources of the madre tierra, but a conspiracy against Bolivia”, said Morales in El Pueblo es Noticia, a T.V. show of the state-run media agency. He added that Bolivia will have to “reconsider the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presence in the country.”
In a meeting with Minister of the Presidency Carlos Romero, U.S. deputy chief of mission William Mozdzierz rejected Morales’ claims and insisted that the United States’ only goal is to improve bilateral relations within a framework of mutual respect.
Beyond President Morales’ statements, Romero also claims that the objective of protest groups isn’t to protect the environment or their cultural heritage: rather it is to defend illegal deforestation and illicit resource extraction interests.