[QODLink]
Americas
Bolivians rally over capital switch
Hundreds of thousands march against a proposal to move the seat of government.
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2007 03:10 GMT

Local officials said as many as a million
people took part in the march [Reuters]
Hundreds of thousands of Bolivians have taken to the streets to protest against a proposal that would move the country's seat of government from its largest city La Paz.

Local media reports suggested as many as a million people could have taken part in one of the country's biggest ever demonstrations in La Paz and its satellite city, El Alto.

The idea of relocating Bolivia's seat of government from La Paz to the city of Sucre in the south of the country emerged during discussions at an assembly that is rewriting the constitution.

Critics say moving the capital would cost the impoverished country billions of dollars and split the nation.

Some say the divisive proposal has been introduced by the country's centre-right opposition in a bid to stop the constitutional rewrite, a reform driven by Evo Morales, Bolivia's president.

"More than change the seat of government, they want to change the government," Jose Luis Paredes, the La Paz regional governor told local radio.

Television pictures showed a sea of people stretching for several kilometres in El Alto, many waving flags, many wearing traditional Andean dress and carrying banners reading "the capital is not moving".

Good response

Paredes said the crowd on Friday surpassed a million people. About 1.7 million people live in El Alto and La Paz combined.

"We have come to tell those who want to separate us, who want the division of our country, that their attempts will not succeed," Luis Revilla, president of the La Paz city council told the crowd.

"The response of the people has been greater than we thought," Paredes said.

La Paz is home to the government's executive and legislative branches, while Sucre, 410 kilometres to the southeast is the site of the country's highest courts.

Sucre was Bolivia's capital during the 19th century and is still home to the supreme court and constitutional assembly.

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, says rewriting the constitution will empower the Indian majority. His support base is mainly in the highland regions in the west of the country, in areas such as La Paz.

His government says the capital city issue should not be included in the discussions to rewrite the constitution.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
join our mailing list