Oxfam salutes the recovery of the land rights of the Bolivian indigenous peoples
On 3 July, 2007 the Chiquitano indigenous people will receive from the hands of President Evo Morales the land titles in perpetuity of the indigenous Community Territory of Monte Verde, after more than a decade of peaceful, legal work to that end.
Monte Verde, known by the Chiquitanos as "Casa Grande" ("the Big House"), is a territory of approximately one million hectares located in southeast Bolivia near the Brazilian border.
The land titling comes following a long process of internal organization of the indigenous communities, advocacy work carried out by the organizations representing them, and public activities, including five pacific protest marches by indigenous men, women, and children, who, on different occasions, walked almost a thousand kilometres each time, in order to reach the seat of government and claim their rights to these lands.
"This enables the Chiquitano People to recover land which has traditionally belonged to them," says Jorge Velazquez of Oxfam International in Bolivia. "It is the beginning of a new stage in the history of the Chiquitano people. Now the challenges they face are in connection with the administration of these lands, the evaluation of available resources, and a search for the best methods of sustainable development and management."
The land titling recognizes the Chiquitano people's ownership of the land, which will enable them to strengthen their development, as they seek the best way to manage the forests and all the renewable resources in a sustainable way, ensuring a physical space for future generations.
"We want to salute and highlight the work of organizations like the indigenous central organizations of Concepción, San Javier, Lomerío, and other organizations of the Chiquitano people, which have demanded the land," says Jorge Velazquez.
This recognition of the ownership of their lands is the fruit of more than a decade of work on the part of the indigenous peoples in this region of Bolivia, involving lawsuits and a laborious process of persuasion and negotiation with the authorities; their efforts included performing different studies and investigations that proved the link between them and the territories they live in. This is a substantial advance for the indigenous peoples with relation to their rights expressed in Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a document which has been included in Bolivian legislation as Law No. 1257.
"Oxfam International recognizes this historic fact because the land forms part of the essence of these peoples: not only does it enclose natural resources that give them sustenance, but it is also their natural habitat, to which they are united by a series of cultural and spiritual values that give them their meaning, affirm their identity, and guide their lives," declared Jorge Velazquez.
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