By Nick Miroff
CARAPARICITO, Bolivia — For most of his life, Oscar Robles worked for an American landowner as a lowly ranch hand, “a peon,” he says, tending cattle and corn for a light-skinned patrón as generations of Guarani laborers did before him.
Then Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, who took office in 2006 pledging to right the historic wrongs committed against the country’s ethnic minorities. Morales seized the American’s land and other nearby properties, giving the Guarani their ancestral home back.
The American rancher fled. Robles became capitán, the new leader of Caraparicito.
Then he watched from the roadside as the drilling crews and construction equipment came roaring in, part of Morales’s all-out push to develop Bolivia’s gas fields and cash in on soaring energy demands in South America.