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Bolivians worry spat with US could kill jobs

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suspended a trade deal with Bolivia last week for failure to rein in coca growing. Some 50,000 jobs could be lost.

Anti-drug warrior? Bolivia's President Evo Morales walks through a coca field as soldiers eradicate the plants in Asunta, Bolivia.

Juan Karita/AP

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To Marga Targui, an indigenous woman who irons T-shirts for American firms like Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch, the increasingly bitter diplomatic spat between the United States and Bolivia is a menace that cloaks her boisterous factory with tension.

Here among the concrete slums perched over Bolivia's capital, La Paz, any job is precious, especially one with benefits and paid vacation like Ms. Targui's.

"We want to work and we want job protection," says Targui between rhythmic hisses of the iron. "There may be something going on at the embassy, but we want Bolivia and the US to be united. As enemies you don't gain anything."

Targui's straightlaced factory is seemingly a world away from the muggy rainforest of the Chapare where ragtag coca farmers – egged on by their champion, leftist President Evo Morales, himself a former coca grower – cultivate the leaf that causes so much international consternation. But now, a trade agreement with the US is pitting the two interests against each other.

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