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Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Indigenous Peoples

In the 2012 census, approximately 41 percent of the population older than age 15 self-identified as indigenous, primarily from the Quechua and Aymara communities.

Many indigenous communities were well represented in government and politics, but they had a disproportionately large share of poverty and unemployment. Government educational and health services remained unavailable to many indigenous groups living in remote areas.

Indigenous lands were not fully demarcated, and land reform remained a major political problem. Historically, some indigenous persons shared lands collectively under the ayllu (traditional form of a community) system, which did not receive legal recognition during the transition to private property laws. Despite laws mandating reallocation and titling of lands, recognition and demarcation of indigenous lands were not completed.

Lowlands indigenous peoples complained they were not well represented in government or by elected representatives. These indigenous groups resided in three departments of the country’s eastern lowlands: Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando. These indigenous peoples included several ethnic and linguistic groups that considered themselves distinct from the Aymara and Quechua indigenous groups of the highland plateau region. Leaders of the indigenous communities of lowlands Santa Cruz Department described growing anger and frustration with the national government for continuing a land policy developed under former president Evo Morales. The leaders decried the policy as having turned into a de facto mechanism for redistributing indigenous lands to government loyalists who allegedly ignited uncontrolled burns to clear the land, exhausted the nutrient-poor Amazon soil within three to four years with coca cultivation, turned the land over to Chinese companies for mineral extraction, and then repeated the cycle nearby.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future