In 2006, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, when he took office he announced an Agrarian Revolution, which "would benefit the country's peasants and indigenous people who needed land to work" and that "would ensure food sovereignty." Fourteen years later, the president of Pachamama, who swore that his government program would favor indigenous peoples, preserve and strengthen their relationship with mother earth, not only did they owe them, but used them to strengthen their political project. It is questioned that land was handed over to people from areas like Cochabamba and not to local farmers and indigenous people, as mandated by law. This is aggravated by dozens of testimonies that assure that union leaders and ex-authorities filled their pockets with illegal charges at the cost of the dream that the land would be for those who worked it.

After eight years of failed attempts, this revolution exploded in 2014, when in the department of Santa Cruz, the largest and most agribusiness engine in Bolivia, land delivery quadrupled in relation to previous years. In the last five years of the presidency of Evo Morales, only 1.2 million hectares of state land were handed over to new community members in Santa Cruz. The equivalent of an area greater than the entire island of Jamaica.

But far from being a measure that favored the poorest sectors, this agrarian revolution, in Santa Cruz and the region known as the Chiquitania, became one of the most controversial issues of the Morales government, since the authorizations failed to comply with the processes of law and its basic foundations: the beneficiaries were not the peasants and indigenous people without land, but members of a single peasant organization (the CSUTCB) took more than 70% of all the land through leaders who, according to numerous complaints that today they are being investigated by the transition government, they formed mafias to extort legitimate owners, generate ghost communities, make illegal charges for the procedures and create settlements that destroy natural reserves.

The National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), an entity blurred by corruption allegations and almost 10 years of interim directors, became the body that, unilaterally, decided everything: the quantity, place and beneficiaries of delivery of lands, passing over the controls and actors stipulated by law. This resulted in irregular authorizations that caused clashes between communities and the illegal change of the use of land (from forest management to agricultural use), in addition to invalidating most of the authorizations of new communities.

Farmers and indigenous people who benefit from the land are mostly (70%) migrants from urban populations who pretend to “become peasants” for a piece of land and are now called settlers in these new communities. Some of them had to move thousands of kilometers to remote places to live without access to drinking water or basic services, suffer abuse from government institutions, charges and abuses of leaders and stigmatization by local populations in places to where they arrived (due to the lack of integration policies). It was enough for others to join a political party to achieve power and benefits within their communities. All were used as records of this territorial colonization policy of Evo Morales. That is why this research calls them: The pirates of the land.

This research was conducted in partnership with CONNECTAS, with support from the ICFJ (International Center for Journalists), within the Initiative for Investigative Journalism in the Americas. For four months, we visited more than a dozen communities throughout Chiquitania and other territories of Santa Cruz. In addition, we review in detail the data of the land allocation provided by the Ministry of Rural Development and Lands, and interview experts, institutions, authorities and peasant and indigenous organizations. The leading authorities of the irregularities that this report reveals - except Teodoro Mamani, the national leader of the CSUTCB - remained silent without answering questions or receiving journalists.

Mas investigaciones de CONNECTAS

The kings of the Jungle:
The clan of the Lions

In the distribution of fiscal lands in Santa Cruz, there was a winning institution that played with an advantage: the CSUTCB, Single Trade Union Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia. This union always identified itself with the colors of Evo Morales and thanks to the influence it had on its government, 70% of the lands were taken. Between its leaders and the officials of the Morales government who managed the territorial titling there was a more than close relationship. Learn how these pirates moved their tentacles to seize the loot that represented the green gold of the land in Santa Cruz.

Padilla is a rural town in the department of Chuquisaca where 10 thousand souls live, mostly dedicated to the production of chili peppers. These gentle valleys gave birth to three men who became the kings of the jungle, holding the power at national level to distribute land to those they pointed out. This clan not only shared the same place of birth, but also the same political color (Movement to Socialism, MAS, the party of Evo Morales), and most strikingly, the same last name: León.

Juan Carlos León was vice minister of Lands in 2017, since he left at the end of 2018 to be director of the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA). Four months after being in the position that gave him the maximum power of land allocation in Bolivia, he was cornered after cases of settlement of coca growers in natural reserves, authorized by this entity, came to light. But this was not enough for Evo Morales' party to take him away from his closer circle, on the contrary, he was returned to his previous position of Vice Minister of Lands, where he remained until the end of the Morales Government in November 2019.

The king of the Lions had the confidence of the then Minister of Rural Development, César Cocarico, who placed him in the most powerful positions on the land issue nationwide. In spite of not complying with one of the basic requirements to be a director of INRA: having a law degree. Juan Carlos León only finished high school, a detail that implies that he and Cocarico both committed crimes of Failure to fulfill Duties, Illegal Appointment and Improper Exercise of the Profession.

While Juan Carlos León was in the national institutions, another León de Padilla was the departmental secretary of the Single Trade Union Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB) in Santa Cruz. Adolfo León led this organization known as La Única and recognized for being the historical entity that began the peasant struggles in Bolivia in the second half of the twentieth century and was very involved in the emergence of Evo Morales and his party as a political force.

Adolfo León led the organization that benefited most from the fiscal land delivery policy. La Solaica took more than 70% of the land delivered in Santa Cruz between 2014 and 2018. This was the time when the largest number of settlement authorizations were issued in the last 25 years in the history of Bolivia. For example, only in 2018 - year in which Juan Carlos León was Vice Minister of Lands and National Director of INRA - of the 187,111 hectares delivered in Santa Cruz, according to data from the Vice Ministry of Lands, 133,387 were for members of the institution of Adolfo León That is, 71%.

In Bolivia there are other social organizations that group indigenous and peasant sectors such as the National Confederation of Indigenous Peasant Women from Bolivia-Bartolina Sisa (Bartolinas), Intercultural, MST (Landless Movement) and CIDOB (Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East) . Although these have also received plots, the percentages are minimal compared to those who took most of the loot: the members of La Única. For example, the indigenous people of the East (CIDOB), who by law had to be prioritized, did not get even 1%.

Under Adolfo was the third of Padilla's cats: Henry León, who served as the regional leader of Pailón at the CSUTCB. Pailón is one of the three municipalities that make up the province of Chiquitos, it is the closest to the city of Santa Cruz and has been the cradle of the soy boom and the agricultural production of Santa Cruz. “Henry León manages the key of Pailón, which is the gateway to Chiquitania, therefore, of the distribution of the most valuable and productive lands of Santa Cruz,” denounces Álvaro la Torre, an expert lawyer in agricultural land causes.

Today, Henry Leon faces a complaint filed by the current Minister of Rural Development of the transitional government, Eliane Capobianco. He was denounced for “intimidation and threats to officials” in early February when authorities from the Ministry and INRA visited communities settled in Pailón. After multiple reports of irregularities in the endowment of lands, Capobianco announced a review of everything done by the INRA during the government of Evo Morales, especially in these districts where the lions had created their own jungle.

Anacleto Aguirre, a farmer from Pailón, is the central figure in one of the cases that shows how the traffickers of the land act. “I have a relative, Nilo Aguirre, who called me and my brothers and told us there was land for us. I, who never had land, got excited and we went there to settle down, ”this is how this rural worker begins his story that despite the seriousness of his revelations he keeps his speech with simple words and without anger.

The lands that were offered to him were one of the expropriated properties in 2012 in the so-called Ostreicher case (a US citizen accused of legitimizing illegal profits whose trial uncovered a network of extortionists within the Executive Power of the Morales government and which ended with the escape of Ostreicher from jail with the help of actor Sean Penn).

The rural worker was glad when his relative Nilo Aguirre told him that a plot of land came out in his name authorized by INRA (see lists). But the smile went quickly when Nilo himself asked for $ 500 as a commission for INRA and the leaders. That would be just the first payment that he and other beneficiaries would sue for keeping his name in the community.

Anacleto slows his story and makes a simple sum that reveals the magnitude of the loot that these pirates share: "We are 90 people and they asked of us $ 500 each, is a lot of money." There are $ 45,000 commissions in a single settlement authorization. At least a dozen community members interviewed in different areas of the Chiquitania talked about the same charges of the leaders, who force them to pay in Bolivians the equivalent of 500 dollars for only entering as members of La Solaica and a community (see chapter II ). Refusing to pay has a cost: expulsion from the community. Anacleto was taken from the property along with three other people in his family who had plots in his name and was threatened by the leaders. The leader was in charge of his community and leader of La Única, Simón Apata Quispe.

Anacleto made a pilgrimage with his complaint “for illegal charges and for land traffic” for years. “There on the site people sell the plots (50 hectares) for 10 thousand dollars and also rent them at 100 dollars per hectare. I went to see Henry León and all the leaders of La Única, but they threatened me and told me to keep quiet. I told them that I would sue them because they are corrupt, ”he says.

Álvaro la Torre, lawyer for other cases of land trafficking and corruption in the INRA, took the case of Anacleto and filed a complaint against Sergio Imana, director of the INRA in Santa Cruz, who ignored the farmer's action and did not even want to receive it.

The law states: "If there is evidence of seizure, sale or traffic of tax lands in the authorized area, INRA will ex officio or denounce the administrative and / or criminal actions against the perpetrators, accomplices, cover-ups and instigators." This was the rule clearly breached by Imana, but Anacleto felt there was no hope, due to the contacts Imana had with justice

Everything changed when Evo Morales resigned from the Presidency on November 10 and left the country after being accused of electoral fraud, and a transitional government took power promising to investigate cases of MAS corruption. Imana entered preventive detention on November 26, 2019. His imprisonment was well announced by the new authorities of the transitional government as a sign of transparency in the INRA.

However, when the authors of this investigation went to look for Imana in jail in January 2020, he had already been released on bail. Álvaro la Torre, says: “They gave him the possibility of putting a good as a deposit to leave. It was an audience of more than five hours with four intermediate rooms, something very strange. Who carried it out was the vocal of the Arminda Méndez criminal court, deputy in the first period of the Evo Morales government. ” Imana's freedom did not transcend the media or public opinion. He tried to contact his lawyer more than a dozen times to have his version, but without success. He also tried to speak with the leader Adolfo León, who accepted an interview, but did not attend the appointment. After the complaints against Henry, Adolfo stopped answering the phone.

Teodoro Mamani, general secretary of the CSUTCB, was the only one who agreed to an interview and came out in defense of his institution and the Morales land authorization process: “Before Brother Evo, no farmer had access to the land, it was all for landowners. " He also says: “So far there is not a case that the land (endowed with community members) is sold. There are also no ghost communities. It may be that the companions return for a season to their places of origin, but their land continues to fulfill their economic and social function. What happens is that the new government looks for excuses to take our land, but we are not going to leave. ” Mamani's statements are given from La Paz more than a thousand kilometers from Santa Cruz. From there, he says that everything has been done in accordance with the law, although he admits that they have not made supervision on the ground but that it is based on reports by their subordinates in charge in Santa Cruz.

Meanwhile, the injustice suffered by Anacleto shows the abuse of power and the illegality that prevails among the leaders of these institutions. And yet it is far from being the darkest thing we find among the leaders of the Los Cedros community. The list of members of this community keeps a secret: Simón Apata Quispe, leader of the CSUTCB who led the settlement of Los Cedros, was denounced for the rape of a child under 13 with the aggravating factor of being his stepdaughter and that the victim ended up pregnant.

The complaint was filed by the girl's mother, Paulina Ramos Saigua, who shortly after signed a Withdrawal Act. Today, Paulina is listed as benefiting from a plot of land of Los Cedros and Torre denouncing that the file disappeared from the Warnes court where it was presented. The lawyer points this out as another example of how the influences of these leaders weigh on justice, which seems to put a patch in the eye to judge them.

The land mafia not only affects and uses farmers as it wishes, but also farm owners. The testimony of the lawyer Marianela Bozo, in another case, allows to see the same modus operandi of the leaders and the complicity of the INRA, also in the area of Pailón. Dr. Bozo was hired by the Association of Small Agricultural Producers Colonia Menonita Neuland. This association denounced Evo Morales and César Cocarico (then president and minister) because their lands, bought in good faith and with the legal documentation to corroborate it, had been declared fiscal lands in 2017 and soon a community appeared in the place with authorization of settlement of the INRA.

“I did my research and discovered a well organized group that was dedicated to asking for money from the producers in the area. In Pailón properties were located (regardless of whether they have all their papers in order and fulfill the economic and social function) and they were cut parts that were declared tax land. The leaders of the area formed communities with which they entered the premises and INRA gave them the resolution of settlement authorization, ”says Bozo.

This lawyer suffered the consequences of denouncing INRA and its tentacles among the peasant leaders: two hooded men dropped a Molotov bomb in her office when she had barely taken the cause.

“There are many cases and many times owners and producers pay to avoid problems. They asked me 50 thousand dollars, but other clients of larger associations have asked for up to a million dollars to solve their affairs, ”concludes the doctor, who despite the threats was not silenced. Currently, and given the new context of a transitional government, Bozo is beginning a trial of Rogelio Cocarico, brother of former Minister César Cocarico for a land dispute in Beni, the country's Amazon department. This and other cases show that Chiquitania was only the first loot of the land distribution and that the Amazon would be the next X on the pirate map.

Breaking the law for a piece of land

The profiles of new community members found in this investigation do not match what the law says. The distribution of land in Santa Cruz benefited mostly highland migrants, rather than local farmers and indigenous people. They gave land to coca growers who already had plots in Cochabamba, city dwellers instead of rural people and even professionals with a bachelor's degree and economic resources far superior to those of a farmer who aspires to be a small producer. Know the route of illegality that these settlers followed to achieve a piece of land and the tricks that are involved.

“The first time I heard Evo say that they were going to give land to those who did not have it, I thought it was a lie. I remember that he arrived in his helicopter to our community in Chapare and promised of all us plots. He said there was plenty of land in Santa Cruz and that we could grow more coca, ”says Tomás, who prefers not to say his last name for fear that his union members will retaliate against him or expel him from his community.

Tomás says that it was 2014 when the then president Evo Morales visited his community in Chapare, an area of the department of Cochabamba that in the last 50 years was developed with the planting of “cocales” (coca bushes) for non-traditional use. Soon they called him to write it down. Within a month - and several payments in between - came the long-awaited INRA seal that marked the coordinates of what would be his second home, beyond the hectares of coca he already had. And although it seems an insignificant detail for INRA, according to the norm, fiscal land should be for farmers who do not own land.

We are two hours from Concepción, a Chiquitana population known for its forests full of orchids. On this site, the only thing that accounts for the existence of a community is a wooden sign badly painted red with a name and a pair of X on the sides that remember the symbols of the pirates. The only work done here has been the burning of a part of the field in preparation for a planting that never came. None of the 45 families in the community of Tomás live here and only some came to know their lands. “We have not had support or money to plant. They sent us here without water, light, or anything; that is why we have not been able to settle down, ”says this man with a face wrinkled by the sun that shows he is in his thirties, while accommodating the coca leaves that bulge his cheek. So Thomas excuses himself, like many other farmers who have failed to fulfill the social function they should have given to these fields.

Tomás is a member of the CSUTCB, like 70% of all the community beneficiaries of the land grant policy in Santa Cruz during the Evo Morales government. But he seems to have touched the fake treasure map. The one where the X that marks its destiny is actually a condemnation of life in absolute marginality.

“They gave us the land, but nothing more. We spent our savings on the paperwork and commissions for these papers and we received nothing of what they promised when they made us sign up for La Única (CSUTCB) and the party (Movimiento Al Socialismo-MAS, by Evo Morales), ”he says annoyed, because he says he has seen other community members with a high rank in the CSTUCB managed to obtain not only land, but benefits such as caterpillars, tractors and credits for production.

And according to him, the fault that this land is abandoned and uninhabited is his because he was not an active militant of the MAS. "I didn't want to go to the leaderships or the campaigns and that's why they didn't help me like others who are well-off right now," he grumbles, while kicking the land of his fruitless plot. Tomás feels cheated and says that "the INRA papers are useless because, on top of that, at any time they will remove these lands for not having to sow." For him, as for other farmers, the final disappointment is that in this area the coca leaf, like hope in the agrarian revolution, is dying.

At more than 350 kilometers, near the municipality of Roboré, Hernán cleanses his face while panting for the 40 degrees of temperature that they make in the middle of the mountain where INRA authorized their settlement. He and his companions, all members of the CSUTCB, arrived to “remove the weeds from the lands and put at least one small house and a sign” that gives signs that not only ghosts pass through their community.

These aspiring rural workers, in reality, are engaged in construction and have spent their adult lives in the city of Santa Cruz. Another inconsequential detail for INRA: the endowment of land must prioritize the population of rural areas. But to achieve a piece of land, the journey always begins with the entry into a peasant social organization and what better if it is La Única, which comes with a guarantee seal.

Hernán says that he and his community partners began their journey in search of land 10 years ago. “First we obtained an authorization in Pando (department in northern Bolivia, the least populated in the country and whose territory is almost completely covered by the Amazon). We went there, but our lands were inaccessible, it didn't give us our economy even to get there, ”he recalls as the rattling of the machetes of his collaborators sounds around.

Hernán confesses that they are barely cleaning the property, that no one lives there and they don't even come from the countryside. The 15 families that appear as owners of these lands reside in the city of Santa Cruz, where they migrated years ago from Oruro and other Andean cities to settle with construction and carpentry work.

This uninhabited community is another map with the INRA seal that led these aspirants to peasants through complex and expensive crossings. Any metaphor falls short of reality, Hernán and his companions have just put up a yellow painted sign that reads: Green Gold.

And it is to take care of that green loot that they visited their lands for the first time, since they know that, after Evo's resignation, the new transitional government of Jeanine Añez has begun a review of the lands endowed by the INRA. Communities that do not fulfill the economic-social function indicated by law could be reverted to the State. That is why Hernán continues to cut with his machete in a hurry and inexperienced, while spitting the green liquid that squeezes from the coca leaves.

From the city of Santa Cruz and at a desk full of maps and books, Alcides Vadillo, lawyer and researcher of the Tierra Foundation, reconfirms what we saw on the ground: more than 30% of these settlers come from urban towns of Cochabamba (including the Chapare). On the other hand, almost 40% of these land beneficiaries come from urban populations of Santa Cruz, but that does not mean that they are born on a cross country, but that they are mostly migrants from Andean areas of the country. "More than 70% of the winners are not peasants, they are urban population, who, perhaps, were children of migrant peasants, but now see these pieces of land as a capital, a good that can be traded in the market," says Vadillo.

More than 500 kilometers from Vadillo and near the town of Carmen Rivero Torres, Ñuflo de Chávez province, sesame crops that extend along lands that should remain virgin as part of the Ñembiguazu protected area, are clearly seen.

“I come from Villa Tunari (Chapare), but there I have no land. With the career you study there is no work either. There are many professionals in Bolivia who have left their jobs, their studies and have seized land. Even their professional titles cancel to register as farmers. What are you going to do by earning 3,000 or 2,000 Bolivians a month as an employee? ”, This is how a boy who does not spend 30 years begins to explain his story and with whom the dialogue continues from this way:
—"Did you study anything?"
—"Something (laughs)."
—Then there are several who, like you, have decided to cancel their title to register as peasants…
—Of course, better work (the land) in peace. Because being a public employee is a limited salary. And many of us don't like having a schedule. Now we are doing better, we have little choice. We have been coming since 2011, we already have orchards, planting.

La Ley del Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria dice:

The National Agrarian Reform Service Law says: —Art 42. II. "The endowment will be free of charge exclusively in favor of rural communities, indigenous and native communities and communities."

But the reality of these “peasants” is different from what one expects to find in people who are supposed to need the 50 hectares endowed to devote to small-scale agriculture as a means of subsistence, as the law indicates.

Outside the community of this retired graduate there are two high-end vehicles: a Volkswagen Amarok van and a Toyota Hilux wagon.

Bolívar is one of the hundreds of communities that have been authorized within protected areas such as Ñembiguazu. It has as neighbors at least eight other communities and, as we could see, all are governed by union leaders of La Única.

According to the official record of the General Directorate of Land Administration of INRA, as of 2019, there are 81 communities whose authorizations and work surfaces invade the Ñembiguazu Ecological Conservation and Importance Area. Although most of them obtained their settlement resolutions before the victory of the Guaraní people to achieve this Great Refuge (meaning in Spanish of Ñembiguazu), this did not stop the advance of the endowment of lands and deforestation.

“We fight to achieve this refuge for our children and grandchildren and thus continue the struggle of our grandparents for our culture. Our land was always Yvy maraey (land without evil); that is why we created this Ñembiguazu, but now, with the invasion we are suffering, evil came to our territory, ”says Adolfo Guzmán, an indigenous leader who rescues his Guarani worldview.

Rubén Ortiz, asambleista del Órgano de Decisión Colectiva del Área de Autonomía Indígena de Charagua, donde se encuentra Ñembiguazu, explica la situación que vive la primera reserva lograda en Bolivia por directa acción de un pueblo indígena. “Desde que obtuvimos nuestra autonomía, venimos denunciando asentamientos dentro del territorio. El 2015 llegaron muchos nuevos colonizadores (comunarios), nuestras denuncias nunca fueron escuchadas por el Gobierno de Evo Morales y el INRA entregó gran número de autorizaciones y resoluciones entre el 2017 y el 2019”.

Rubén ends with a reflection that lands the problem: “I walked through the west (of the country), I met and was with peasant and indigenous brothers who really live in poverty, who really need land to work. I wish it would have been them who gave permission to settle, but no, those who arrived were coca growers, leaders of the Chapare who come with machinery and large vehicles, direct to do clearance and business. That is another great contradiction of the Evo Government.”

Vadillo, from the Tierra Foundation, puts figures and academy on what Rubén and Adolfo live in: “Newcomers are forced to create a settlement and to try to transform into peasants. The first clue to observe is that the authorities have endowed land not in terms of creating communities of peasants or benefiting those who do not have it and want to be farmers, but people who speculate on the land, ”he explains and continues: “The second clue is that, for example, people from the department of La Paz (the most populous, with greater density and serious problems of lack of land), only obtained 3% of the authorizations. In contrast, Cochabamba has 30% of the winners. The problem is serious because of the skewed selection of beneficiaries. We are talking about almost 25 thousand people, whose choice did not comply with the procedures and was made without transparent information ”.

For the leaders of the Guaraní people, the government of Evo Morales put the interests of the coca farmers unions and those who supported him politically over his indigenous brothers forsaking them, contrary to what he had promised. Today, disappointed by the first indigenous president of Bolivia, Adolfo says: "What they do to our territory affects us in our being, in our clothings, our culture, our language, in all the ways of living, because we live with nature and with it we define ourselves. People from other places don't understand that and they don’t feel our land like us.

INRA: The institution that was believed above the law

The massive distribution of land that Evo Morales did was tainted by nullity from the most basic processes. The actors who had to monitor the issue were never taken into account. The INRA (National Agrarian Reform Institute) acted alone and above the norm. This caused a series of conflicts between local community members who were overwhelmed in their territory and culture by the new settlers who were sent as pirates to take what INRA marked with an X on the map.

“In 2009, thirty families arrived in our community with INRA land allocation papers. They were called the Chirimoya Agroecological Community and said they were part of the Landless Movement (MST), ”recalls Luciano Petigá, who in that year was a chief (maximum local authority) of the San José de Campamento Community. A centennial town located 530 kilometers from the city of Santa Cruz, and 170 kilometers from the nearest asphalt.

Neither the newcomers nor the natives knew it, but they were about to become one of the many cases of conflicts between communities and irregularities due to the piratization of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA), during the government of Evo Morales.

According to data from the Ministry of Rural Development, Agriculture and Environment of Bolivia, in Santa Cruz, the largest department and main agricultural engine of the country, between 2014 and 2018, 1.2 million hectares of fiscal land were delivered to communities through extraordinary authorizations and awards. This is equivalent to more than 70% of all land that was delivered in the last 25 years (1.8 million hectares).

To carry out this mass delivery, INRA, from 2006 to 2015 (last year of which official figures are available) issued 57,925 titles and land certificates. Authorizations and provisions made directly and unilaterally, violating controls and processes required by law.

The transitional government is reviewing hundreds of complaints of land deliveries for agricultural work in territories reserved for forest use, in addition to phantom communities and illegal land collection. Complaints and claims made by local authorities, leaders of lowland indigenous peoples and organizations in the Chiquitana area and surrounding areas.

“We have complaints from 475 ghost communities (in Velasco province), where no one lives and people hardly appear to raze the forest and scorch the land- start fires in cleared areas to prepare the land before cultivating, a common practice in the fields— without knowing well the forms and irresponsibly; thus they cause forest fires ”, denounces Fernando Rojas, great cacique (maximum indigenous authority) of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of San Ignacio de Velasco (ICISIV), an entity that represents more than 120 communities of the Velasco province, in the Bolivian Chiquitania.

Rojas also says there are 560 other illegal settlements in his province. "We made the claims, we even held protests in different villages and vigils in the INRA, but we never received a response from the authorities of the previous administration," says the chief.

The total number of communities settled in the last 10 years is a mystery that pirates seem to have buried. According to the Tierra Foundation, in Chiquitania there could be up to 1,600 communities, while in their records, the Vice Ministry of Lands counts them in 912. Chief Rojas is more drastic and warns that “the plan was to authorize 3 thousand new settlements so that the new settlers are majority in the region ”.

Although the authors of this research left four requests for public information between the months of October and January, INRA did not show its figures. This lack of transparency was a constant and INRA not only denied information to journalists but also to institutions such as the Santa Cruz governorate and the municipalities involved that never received reports on the new communities. In addition to this, speculation about the number of new communaries that was generated in the Chiquitanian towns encouraged the struggles between locals and newcomers.

In San José de Campamento, the conflicts began immediately with the new neighbors. These claimed as part of their settlement an area of 4 thousand hectares that the already settled people had as their own.

“I had about 60 cows, farmland, pastures and my home. I was in the place since 1991 and there was everything I had, but those from the MST arrived and threatened me to leave, they told me they would go kick me out, ”says Guido Solis, who had the bad luck that the land that he worked and considered his house to be in the middle of the new community. Today, look at those lands with pity because they are abandoned.

Local communities were not the only ones affected. The newcomers also had problems due to the lack of due process in their endowment. The inhabitants of Chirimoya, in addition to spending years without electricity or drinking water, were intercepted upon arrival by young people from the Civic Committee of San Ignacio de Velasco, who allegedly beaten, humiliated and robbed them, as reported in 2010 before the media Leaders of this community.

To avoid this type of confrontation and shortages in the communities that are looking for a piece of land to work, the redistribution of land has a process regulated by the Law of National Service of Agrarian Reform, of October 18, 1996 and, its update and complementation , Law No. 3545, Law on Community Reconstruction of Agrarian Reform, passed in 2006.

In both the National Agrarian Reform Service (SNRA) is formed, which is composed of the president, the Ministry of Rural Development, the Departmental Agrarian Commissions (CAD), formed by the main peasant, indigenous and agricultural entities of each department, and INRA. Entities that must work together to ensure well-planned settlements and that have proper supervision. But this did not happen.

"All settlement resolutions of recent years have been illegal because they did not meet the standards even in their most basic and fundamental points," Leonardo Tamburini, lawyer and researcher specializing in indigenous issues at the Center for Legal Studies and Social Research.

In June 2019, the governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, denounced to the media that the CADs could not meet because the INRA did not attend the meetings. The canceled sessions already added 114. “Why did you wait a hundred and so many times? With three calls and not being able to meet for the absence of the director of the INRA, the governor had to initiate a legal process (to the director of the INRA) for breach of duties. It seems that there was an accomplice silence, ”reflects Mauricio Rojas, INRA Director of Land Endowment of the new transition government.

“INRA was politically managed by the MAS (Movement to Socialism, political party of Evo Morales). The MAS made fun of the CAD, who by law had to decide the Land Use Plan (PLUS). They had to coordinate to give the conditions to the people who took new communities and did not. People came with their little maps saying "I have been given these lands." That is why there were problems in many towns such as San Miguel, San Ignacio or different areas of Chiquitania, ”says Eliane Capobianco, Minister of Rural Development since January 2020.

“INRA, arbitrarily, took attributions that do not correspond to it and became the entity that received the petitions, processed them, decided what were the available lands (fiscal lands), where to grant them and in what way. That is to say, he was a judge and a party and this generated rough maneuvers with land traffic, breach of land uses and other crimes, ”says Mauricio Rojas, a lawyer who before filing his current position at INRA filed several complaints against this institution.

“All the executive titles granted by the INRA in Santa Cruz are signed by former president Evo Morales and are all tainted by nullity titles. It would be very foolish to believe that the President of the Nation did not know how these procedures were being carried out. It is also very strange that neither the National Director of INRA nor the Minister of Rural Development have done anything to correct this in the department where the largest land allocation of one of the largest land distributions of recent times was made ”, he questions Red.

While in the government offices the change of administration shows the filth that these corsairs accumulated in their ships, in San José de Campamento they dare not dream of returning to the past. “The new communities are already here, the forest has already been cut down. These people suffered a lot these years, without water, without light, and consider these lands their home. Anyone who is threatened to be pushed out of their house is going to defend themselves with everything they can, but that does not mean that we are going to let them overwhelm us, ”reflects the current chief Reynaldo in his house, in assembly with some neighbors.

According to analysts of the issue such as Alcides Vadillo, of the Tierra Foundation, the inheritance of these years of land piracy will be conflicts between farm owners, local communities and settlers who will face possible evictions and land reversion. And the damage will not only be territorial, environmental and social but also cultural. Chief Rojas rethinks the consequences of this massive endowment of land and concludes: “This was an attempt to colonize us for political reasons, bringing people to win mayor's offices. Above they preyed on the forest and wanted to silence our culture. ”

The team

Nathalie Iriarte Villavicencio
Investigación y redacción periodística

Periodista boliviana con diploma en Defensa de DDHH. Ha recorrido gran parte de Latam mientras sus trabajos se publicaban en medios de Bolivia, México, España, Inglaterra y EEUU, entre otros. Fue finalista del Premio Gabriel García Márquez en 2015. Obtuvo menciones en el Premio Carmen Goes 2014 (España), Premio de Crónica Pedro Rivero Mercado (Bolivia) y Premio SIP (Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa) en 2015. En 2017 obtuvo la Beca Gabo de Periodismo Cultural y recientemente ganó el premio GEN 8.7 de Periodismo sobre Trabajo Infantil (premio entregado por la ONG Sueño para Misiones de Argentina). Iriarte ha sido docente de periodismo en la Universidad Evangélica Boliviana y actualmente reside en Bolivia investigando temas de corrupción, derechos de la mujer y los pueblos indígenas, entre otros.

Rolando Aparicio Velasco
Asistente de Investigación Periodística

Periodista independiente, fotoperiodista y realizador. Colabora de forma constante con medios de la International Network of Street Papers y realiza investigaciones para medios alternativos en Bolivia

Monica Carreño
Diseño Gráfico e Ilustraciónes

Licenciada en Diseño Gráfico y Comunicación Visual con una especialidad en Ilustración tradicional & con medios digitales, Moni Carreño es una Hufflepuff del tamaño de un Hobbit. Le gusta caminar largas distancias y trabajar en situaciones bajo presión. Realizó distintos proyectos que abarcan desde la identidad corporativa a los videojuegos. Actualmente trabaja con la productora “La Casa de la Televisión Inteligente” y para satisfacer su fanatismo geek con la revista mensual boliviana “GIK”, la cual fundó junto a sus compañeros de la mesa redonda.

Maicol Albert Mamani
Cámara y Edición de video

Comunicador ambiental, fotógrafo y vidéografo, trabaja actualmente en la Sociedad Boliviana de Derecho Ambiental (SBDA), realiza trabajos para (WWF por su sigla en inglés World Widlife Fund), para La Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (IUCN por su sigla en inglés International Union for Conservation of Nature) en Bolivia.

José Julio Villagomez Villavicencio
Diseño web

Ingeniero en Sistemas, con habilidades en desarrollo web en diferentes leguajes de programacion como ser; HTML, PHP, PHYTON,ANGULAR. Se capacitó en cursos de seguidad informática de la universidad UTEPSA y Ethical Hacking de la universidad Gabriel Rene Moreno. Realizó distintos proyectos de desarrollo de motores de base de datos con Inteligencia Artificial aficionado al desarrollo de juegos en UNITY. Actualmente trabaja en la empresa Nur S.R.L Como Auxiliar de Sistemas y RR.HH

Ana Lucía Duque Salazar (Colombia)
Edición periodística

Periodista colombiana, con amplia experiencia en edición y docencia. Trabajó durante 29 años en el diario El Tiempo, el de mayor circulación en el país, donde fue editora de la sección local, editora de la Mesa Central de Información y coordinadora del proyecto de formación Escuela de Periodismo. Ha sido docente universitaria, sobre todo en el Centro de Estudios de Periodismo de la Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), institución donde también actualmente es editora de la Nota Uniandina, su revista oficial.

Agradecimientos especiales:

A Naila Iriarte por las traducciones.
A la Sociedad Boliviana de Derecho Ambiental (SBDA) por el apoyo durante el trabajo de campo.
A Daniel Lozada por el apoyo en tomas aéreas.

COVER Chapter 1: The kings of the Jungle: the clan of the Lions
Chapter 2: Breaking the law for a piece of land
Chapter 3: INRA: The institution that was believed above the law THE TEAM LEER EN ESPAÑOL