Statement of Solidarity with Fundación TIERRA and Other Research Institutes in Bolivia

Bolivia's Vice President Álvaro García Linera recently launched attacks against four Bolivian non-governmental research institutes: Fundación TIERRA, CEDIB (Center for Documentation and Information of Bolivia), CEDLA (Center for Studies of Labor and Agrarian Development), and Fundación Milenio. The first three organizations have long histories of carrying out important critical scholarship in support of labor, peasant, and indigenous movements in Bolivia.

 

In a statement made on August 10, 2015, García Linera accused these organizations of deliberately disseminating false information in order to advance the interests of foreign governments and multinational corporations.[1] These aggressions raise serious and urgent concerns regarding the Bolivian government's support for the freedom of expression, association, and access to information. In particular, they generate a hostile environment for researchers and intellectuals in Bolivia, creating a chilling effect on knowledge-production and stifling public debate about Bolivia's development model.

 

One of the organizations facing harassment, Fundación TIERRA, has been producing invaluable analyses of rural development issues, the right to land, and agrarian reform for over two decades. In recent years, the organization has published important research on the expansion of industrial soy plantations in eastern Bolivia, which has primarily benefitted foreign land grabbers and transnational agribusiness firms.[2] It is thus highly ironic for the government to accuse Fundación TIERRA—a champion of agrarian justice—of promoting the interests of foreign corporations.

 

Indeed, the government's claims come largely as a response to the critical, rigorous, and empirically-based research carried out by these organizations which have argued that extractivist activity in mining, oil and gas, and agro-industry is becoming increasingly concentrated, socially and environmentally exploitative. Fundación TIERRA and the other institutes have all carried out research exposing these processes in the interest of the country's most marginalized populations and in the pursuit of social justice.

As colleagues and supporters of Fundación TIERRA, we voice our strong support for the important work that they do in Bolivia and as part of our international community of researchers, activists, and academics working to fight oppression, exploitation, and inequality. As international researchers, research institutes, and justice advocacy organizations, we call on the government of Bolivia to respect the right to pursue critical research; to foster informed debate; and to the freedom of expression, association, and access to information.

 

In solidarity with Fundación TIERRA, we urge the Bolivian government to stop the attacks and threats against these organizations and guarantee their right to exist free of harassment and continue to carry out critical research for social, economic, and ecological justice.

 

In solidarity,

 

The undersigned

August 24, 2015

 


[1] “García Linera dice que ONG mintieron a intelectuales para que se sumen al discurso imperial” La Razón, 18 de agosto 2015. http://www.la-razon.com/nacional/Garcia-Linera-ONG-mintieron-intelectuales_0_2328367221.html

[2] See: Ben McKay and Gonzalo Colque (Executive Director of Fundación Tierra), “Bolivia's soy complex: the development of ‘productive exclusion’” The Journal of Peasant Studies 2015, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2015.1053875#abstract