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In La Paz

Disabled woman attacks Bolivian police force (Photo: David Mercado, Reuters)

The following is my latest short post for the London Review of Books blog.

In June 2009, the Bolivian state-run newspaper Cambio reported that Alán García, the then president of Peru, had accused Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, of inciting genocide against the Peruvian police force. Morales had expressed solidarity with inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon opposed to the multinational corporate exploitation of the region’s resources.

Since then, Morales seems to have adjusted his position on both environmentalism and the rights of indigenous peoples. There are plans to build a highway through Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). The government has portrayed the road’s opponents as politically motivated allies of US imperialism, and the police have cracked down violently on protesters. The road would benefit Brazilian energy companies and coca-growing Morales supporters who have moved into the area.

Cambio has meanwhile cast the Bolivian police as the victims in a confrontation with disabled protesters in La Paz last month. The protesters arrived in the city at the end of a 1000-mile march to request an annual disability subsidy of 3000 Bolivianos (around $400). Amnesty International drew attention to reports that the police had used electric shocks and pepper sprays indiscriminately on the crowd. Cambio dwelled on the injuries sustained by the police and blamed the violence on a group of infiltrados posing as disabled people.

Having watched the marchers arrive in La Paz on 23 February in wheelchairs and on crutches, some of them missing limbs, I was surprised to hear from my newspaper vendor the following day that the disabled had attacked the police in the city centre.

Click here to continue reading at the LRB blog.

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