LA PAZ – Residents of a central Bolivian municipality lifted the blockade that had obstructed the nation’s main highway since last Tuesday after reaching an accord with their neighbors in an adjoining district with whom they have an ongoing territorial conflict, official sources said.
The seven-point agreement was signed by the mayor of Villa Tunari, Asterio Romero, and by Demetrio Pinto, mayor of the Colomi district, whose residents had blocked the route between the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba and the eastern city of Santa Cruz.
One of the commitments says that residents of Villa Tunari “must respect the boundaries of the two municipalities and may not expand into territory belonging to Colomi,” Interior Deputy Minister Rodolfo Illanes told the media.
Agreement was also reached to speed up police investigations into the suspected acts of aggression by Villa Tunari peasants against Colomi residents early this week, which led to the blockade of the highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Before the talks started, police used tear gas and fired buckshot on Wednesday at protesters blocking the roadway, a move that left four civilians and two police officers injured, according to media reports.
The territorial conflict between Colomi and Villa Tunari is not new, with Colomi demanding a change in the town boundaries because some of its neighborhoods are being linked to the adjacent town, a situation that affects the allocation of state resources to the community.
In November 2012, Colomi residents blocked the same highway to demand changes in the map during the census that was to be carried out in the following days.
On that occasion, the protesters attacked 51 police officers, sending 18 of them to the hospital, 7 of them in critical condition.
Land disputes between municipalities or districts are regular occurrences in Bolivia, given that in 2012 just 30 municipalities out of the country’s 339 had fully delineated their territorial limits.