In the province of North Lípez in a remote corner of the department of Potosí, more than 10,000 people live without electricity, potable water, or communication connections. The representative of the province, Isidoro Copa, complained that, “it gives the impression that the State only goes up to the Salar de Uyuni, and beyond that it´s no man´s land.” Representative Copa also said that, “North and South Lípez are abandoned as in the past Atacama, now in the power of Chile, had been. No one remembers Lípez, no one says that this land is also Bolivia, they only remember Lípez in order to exploit the natural resources…we consider ourselves Bolivians, but we also want to be treated as Bolivians and have access to these services (electricity, water, and cell phone service).” Copa, a lawyer by profession, said that the only telephone in the region is in the town Avaroa which is connected with an antenna on the Chilean side of the border.
In the high and desolate area of North Lípez, the agricultural activity centered around quinoa and corn production relies entirely on infrequent rains. According to Rep. Copa the region received two rain storms during the past growing season and farmers expect a meager harvest. People in the region also live without electric lights and cook over kerosene stoves. “We have processing plants for our quinoa but we can´t use them for the lack of electric power, we have to transport our quinoa to Challapata (several hours north) or sometimes to Peru where we sell it as a raw product,” lamented Copa.
The harsh conditions and state neglect of the region have pushed many people native to Lípez to emigrate to Chile. With tears in his eyes Rep. Copa said that, “We live thanks to the fact that we´re close to the border and because we can look for work in Chile, but we have to look for miserable work, there´s discriminatory treatment.” The majority of Bolivians from this region have crossed into Chile in search of a living, leaving many border settlements looking like ghost towns. The representative of Nor Lípez, who went to La Paz to present a petition to the Ministry of Public Works complaining about the lack of attention from the Potosí Prefecture, said that, “now there is only hope that the Chileans enter again as they did in 1879,” a reference to the 19th century War of the Pacific between Bolivia and Chile.
Source: In Remote Area of Potosí, People Without Electricity or Water, Bolivia Weekly, 15 Apr 2010.
Related news: Pobladores de Nor Lípez se quejan por la ausencia del Estado, viven sin luz y agua, Red Satelital, 15 Apr 2010.