Sept 18 - Bolivian indigenous groups march to protest the construction of a highway to be built through forest and indigenous land. Marie-Claire Fennessy reports.
Indigenous groups march from the Amazon plains to Bolivia's capital. They are protesting the planned construction of a highway through protected forest and indigenous land. Around 500 marchers started the 370 mile walk from Beni to La Paz on August 15th. One Indigenous leader said the planned highway violates his people's rights. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) INDIGENOUS LEADER FROM THE ISIBORO SECURE NATIONAL PARK AREA, FERNANDO VARGAS, SAYING: "But, besides, it still violates the constitution and the international agreements that recognize our rights as indigenous people." The 420 million dollar road, to be built by Brazilian company OAS would link the plains of Beni to Chapare. It is a move welcomed by some. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) YUCUMO RESIDENT IN FAVOR OF HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION, VILMA GARCIA, SAYING: "We want the highway; that is our fight because here our children suffer with the lack of products such as vegetables that arrive expensive because there is no road. Goods here arrive more pricey." Police forces ran through drills at a roadblock set up between the demonstrators and the capital. The marchers said they were expecting more obstructions before they reached their destination. President Evo Morales has put the road scheme at the heart of his drive to boost infrastructure investment in the impoverished nation. Criticism of the president over the highway is mounting. In June, he angered activists by saying the road would be built "whether they like it or not." Marie-Claire Fennessy, Reuters