HelpAge International denounces land-grabbing in Bolivia

23/09/2009

Older people in the highlands of Bolivia Undefended: Older people from the Bolivian Altiplano. Photo: Gustavo Trigo/HelpAge International HelpAge International has denounced the increase in appropriation, or "landgrabbing" of older people's property in the communities of the Yungas and of the Altiplano (high plateau) of La Paz in Bolivia.

One of the reasons given by those accused of land-grabbing is that "older people no longer fulfil communal tasks".  

At a national meeting organised to raise awareness of the problem, HelpAge presented evidence and testimonies from older people.

A common problem

These reports describe how community members seize the land because they believe older people didn't fulfil local duties such as participating in protest marches or other community duties.

Older people have argued they did comply with these obligations when they were younger.

"The problem of land appropriation is common," said James Blackburn, HelpAge International's regional representative for Latin America, "but those affected do not know where to go to claim their ownership and constitutional rights."

A representative of the National Association of Older Persons of Bolivia, Carlos Loza, said: "These accusations are the tip of the iceberg of a much greater problem that affects the people we represent - not only in this area, but also with regards to citizens' safety and protection."

New police protection plan

Many older people commented at the meeting that in the past the police seemed unable, or unwilling, to support older people facing such problems.   

Sergio Ibáñez of the Vice-Ministry of Citizens' Security stated that in response a new law bill has been presented for developing specific units within the police force. These units would provide protection and advice to older people who have experienced extortion or abuse. 

In addition the Bolivian Government has announced a new police programme for supporting and protecting older persons. 

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