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Bolivia's Morales suspends road project
Decision on Amazon highway follows protests by indigenous Indians worried about the plan's impact.
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2011 20:05



A proposal to build a highway across the Bolivian Amazon has been suspended by Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, after indigenous protesters opposed the plan.

Indigenous Bolivians fear the Tipnis project could destroy their way of life.

"The roads construction is suspended until the national debate is over," Morales said.

There are about 70 communities with people from three indigenous ethnicities living in settlements similar to Tipnis, close to where the highway is planned to be built.

At the beginning, hundreds came from these communities to participate in the protest march.

Morales earlier said he would pause the road plan by putting it to a referendum vote, but indigenous activists rejected the plan and are still marching.

Protesters said on Friday they were regrouping and expected to resume their march towards La Paz over the weekend.

For all the anger, the project has sparked a debate within the Indian communities themselves. Jhonny a Osomomo chief, said:" If they build it correctly, so that it skirts the reserve, a road could be a good thing.

"For example, we have very few health supplies and doctors here and it could help keep our children healthy."

Violent crackdown

Earlier this week the police violently broke up a 42-day-long march across Bolivia that aimed to draw attention to the issue.

The government has now angered the police department after taking action against officers they say were responsible for the violent repression of indigenous people.

Juan Carlos Coraide, a police official in the La Paz suburb of El Alto, said police were on guard.

"Until this situation clears up and government stops meddling with this noble institution, we are in a state of emergency on a national level with all the police troops," he said.

Two of Morales' cabinet ministers resigned this week after police broke up the protest over the weekend, firing tear gas and briefly detaining marchers in a raid on a camp they were using en route to La Paz.

The defence minister quit in protest at the police raid. Morales' interior minister, who had become the focus of criticism from opposition politicians, stepped down in an apparent effort to limit political damage from the crackdown.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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