Four TIPNIS Marchers Beaten by the cold and altitude Ambulanced to La Paz

The day is very nearly upon us.
 
The 2,000 strong indigenous group marching on La Paz to defend the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) will arrive tomorrow after more than two months. 
 
But it has come at a cost.
 
In an earlier post I reported on the sad death of three members of the group in accidents and the loss of two babies from miscarriages.
 
Over the last few days the marchers have been tackling the hardest part of their 500km journey – the climb towards the forbidding Cumbre high above the capital.
 
Almost all of these marchers are from the the tropical lowlands in the east. They’re simply not used to the cold nor the altitude of these, Bolivia’s western highlands.
 
Today the papers have been filled with reports of 12 of their number, women, children and men, all being treated at La Merced Hospital in La Paz, suffering from illnesses brought on by the elements.
 
Sadly, the news also came that another woman suffered a miscarriage today.
 
Fortunately, the day wasn’t entirely without good news – María Regina Yujo gave birth to what is already being dubbed the first “March baby”.  Born by caesarean, mother and 6lb 10oz baby boy are doing just fine. 
 
Well, when the marchers get to La Paz they’re going to be put up in the main public university – the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés.
 
When I went there today the uni staff were busy digging out the straw mattresses and blankets in time for their arrival tomorrow.
 
Much to my surprise, the University frequently plays the generous stable master and houses worn and weary political marchers when they finally make it to La Paz.
 
Apparently, President Evo Morales himself has found umbrage within its municipal walls when he was still a rather gung-ho trade unionist and no stranger to marches himself.
 
This time round, I suspect he’ll only be taking umbrage – umbrage at the very public display of support the university is giving the marchers.
 
Various members of the administration I spoke to today tell me the decision isn’t a political one, but rather a simple show of solidarity.
 
Perhaps I need a stronger prescription not to see the lines blurring here. 
 
As much politicking as I’m sure goes on in camera in our British universities, I can’t quite imagine it being taken ‘outta door’ (as we’d say in Jamaican) in quite such a public fashion. 
 
That said, the Mayoralty of La Paz is also firmly onside with the marchers.
 
They’re working with the university to house the marchers and the Mayor himself, Luis Revilla, has promised to hand the keys to the city when they arrive.
 
And in preparation for that moment, he’s called on every La Paz citizen to bedeck their home with flags.
 
For all his clashes with ol’ Dave,  I’m again having trouble visualising Boris taking such a wildly differing line from the government.
 
But that to one side. 
 
What I was going to say was that this morning four of the marchers found themselves in  need of the University’s refuge a day early than unexpected.
 
Ambulance crews brought them to one of the main buildings after they were found suffering from severe headaches, shortness of breath and fatigue.
 
When I went to see them this afternoon they were well wrapped up in clothes donated by local people along the route and on the way to recovery, if not to final checkpoint in Urujara with the rest of the group.
 
In a solemn moment they confessed to me that despite making it these past 63 days they didn’t think they’d have the strength to rejoin their companions for this coming 64th and last day.
 
They’ll have to hope they’re fellow marchers do a good job of presenting their demands for them. 
 
And just as I’ve been writing this, I see that the government has very late in the day handed a letter to one of the marchers’ leaders promising them an audience with Evo tomorrow. 
 
Interesting times.
 
Anyway, here’s my article in Spanish on the experience of those four marchers. A more colourful and detailed article in English about all the recent illnesses as well the sense of anticipation here in La Paz is on its wingèd way.
 
And of course, the messenger shall bring news and analysis of the significance of this for the MAS government as well.
 

La Paz, 18 Oct. (ANF) – Cuatro integrados de la marcha indígena en defensa del Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) han sido llevados a La Paz en ambulancia este martes con síntomas ocasionados por el frío y el cambio de altura recorriendo la subida hasta la Cumbre.

Los cuatro pacientes, tres varones y una mujer, fueron acogidos en la Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA)  al promediar el 11:00. Informaron que sufren con dolores de cabeza, dificultades para respirar y mareos.  Asimismo, afirmaron que tienen huesos adoloridos, ampollas y fatiga.

“Sabíamos que íbamos a un departamento donde se siente mucho el frío y venimos casi preparados. Y algunos nos han dado abrigos y refugio, pero la mayor parte están durmiendo a la intemperie”, explicó uno de los pacientes, Gustavo Antezana, procedente del Pando.

“Hemos sufrido bastante con el cambio de presión y hace mucho frío. Nos duele la cabeza y la espalda  y tengo constricción de los pulmones,” agregó.

La columna de más de dos mil marchistas llegará a La Paz este miércoles, donde esperan presentar sus 16 demandas al gobierno en la Plaza Murillo. A pesar de estar al punto de cumplir con esta meta, los servicios de emergencia consideraron que la condición de los cuatro caminantes enfermos fue demasiado seria para permitir que continuaran.

Los cuatro pacientes están recuperando en La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés  donde se espera alojar a la mayor parte de los marchistas cuando arriben mañana. La casa de estudios superiores ha designado tres diferentes ambientes dentro del predio pero admitieron que el espacio escasea ya que no pueden suspender el programa universitario y ofrecer más aulas.

El mayor espacio para recibir a los marchistas es en el central del Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (STUMSA), donde los cuatro pacientes están alojados ahora. Cuentan con unos colchones de paja y un pequeño calefactor para curarles del frío. También tienen guantes, pantalones impermeables y orejeras que han sido donados por pueblos a lo largo del camino.

Los pacientes empiezan a convalecerse con el descanso así como las cobijas y mates de coca que les está dando los administrativos que se declaron “dolidos” por lo que les ha pasado a los marchistas. Sin embargo, dudaron que vayan a tener fuerzas para reunirse con los demás marchistas mañana cuando se dirigan a Plaza Murillo para dialogar con el presidente.

“En el estado que estoy no creo que pueda llegar a la Plaza Murillo con mis compañeros para presentar nuestras demandas. Realmente no sé si me mejoraré o si voy a quedar así,” lamentó Antezana.


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