Hundreds of indigenous people protesting the construction of a road in Bolivia's Amazon basin region are again marching toward the capital, La Paz, their leaders said.
Indigenous people angry at the plans to build a highway through an Amazon nature reserve had been holding off and on protests for months -- even after President Evo Morales technically suspended the project and publicly apologized for earlier violence.
Following widespread uproar, Morales who backs the road, called for an international investigation into the police crackdown and arrests of hundreds of activists who had been marching for a month.
Rights observers from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) said last week they would form a commission to carry out a probe of abuses earlier during the march.
But there has been no sign of the government winning local peoples' trust, which will be tough after it offered dialogue but then cracked down on marchers.
The Brazil-financed road is threatening to run through the Isiboro Secure reserve, home to some 50,000 natives from three different indigenous groups. These isolated groups, from the humid lowlands, are not the main indigenous groups that make up most of Bolivia's population, the highland Andean Aymara and Quechua peoples.
The lowland people fear their traditional lands may be overrun by landless highland farmers, loggers and mineral explorers.
Police fired teargas and 74 people were injured in the September 25 crackdown, according to official figures.
Morales -- who is Bolivia's first democratically elected indigenous leader himself -- came to power on a wave of indigenous support; former interior minister Sacha Llorenti, who later resigned, denied ordering the crackdown. The Defence minister and migration chief also resigned.
The dispute is a major challenge for Morales, who has said the 300-kilometer highway is vital for the country's economic development. The road is part of a network, sponsored and financed by Brazil, which would cross the South American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.
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It's an interesting question - should part of a nation be allowed to remain backward if it chooses this path?Oct 11th, 2011 - 08:57 pm 0