Ethnic Bolivians protest against road project

Ethnic Bolivians protest against road project
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Around 300 indigenous Bolivians have begun a 500km protest walk to the capital La Paz. They are against the building of a road which will cross the National Park where they live.

They claim the controversial project will impact on their traditional way of life and have a detrimental effect on the environment.

The road would link the plains of Beni to Chapare, a sparsely populated region where Bolivian President Evo Morales began his political career as leader of the coca farmers.

To coincide with the march, strikes and road blockades were called in two other areas of the country in what Morales said was a coordinated effort to undermine him politically.

Criticism of the president has mounted from within his own indigenous base over the highway project.

“This march will end in La Paz, so that the government understands and thinks about changing its attitude and changing the route of the highway project,” said Fernando Vargas, one of the leaders of the protest, as he and at least 500 others started the walk from Beni to the capital.

The road controversy has put the president on the defensive ahead of nationwide judicial elections in October, part of broader reforms to give indigenous people a bigger role in state affairs.

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