Bolivian Indians resume march against highway

AP News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2011 6:09 PM
Bolivian Indians resume march against highway

Hundreds of indigenous activists opposed to plans to build a highway through an Amazon reserve resumed their march to the capital on Saturday, a week after a violent police crackdown.

The march against the Brazil-funded highway through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park in the eastern state of Beni began on Aug. 15. But it was halted Sept. 25 by police using clubs and tear gas in an operation that left dozens injured and led to the resignation of the defense and interior ministers.

The march resumed on Saturday in the town of Quiquibey, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital, La Paz.

"We are continuing the struggle. We have advanced and were are in the town of Delicias and bit by bit we are gaining more supporters," said march organizer Fernando Vargas, who put the size of the march at 1,000 people.

March organizers say they plan to reach La Paz in mid-October.

The crackdown on marchers has led to sharp criticism of President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Bolivians marched in major cities to protest the operation.

Morales has apologized to the marchers, and denies he ordered the crackdown. He also announced the suspension of the highway, saying he will let voters in the affected region decide its fate.

Morales has said the 190-mile (300-kilometer) is needed for Bolivia's economic development. Marchers say the highway would despoil a park that is home to 15,000 indigenous people who live off hunting, fishing, gathering fruit and subsistence farming.