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Bolivian indigenous struggle to be heard – by indigenous President Morales

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A case in point is Bolivia, where police confronted those protesting a proposed new road, heavily financed by Brazil, that was to cut through The National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro-Secure (TIPNIS). The indigenous living in the lowland jungle say their rights to be previously consulted, enshrined in the new 2009 Constitution, have been violated and fear the road will open the park to oil and gas exploration and an influx of coca growers, among other concerns.

The movement has come to a head, with two ministers resigning – one in solidarity, another under pressure – over allegations that the government ordered police to crush the movement. Morales halted the project. But he said he might put its future to a broad referendum, which the marchers oppose.

More than 60 percent of Bolivia's population identifies itself as ethnically indigenous, and while they are hardly monolithic – some support Morales's highway – this protest has cost Morales support among many of his former allies. In the scandal's wake, he called protesters his "indigenous brothers," but at an earlier point labeled them lackeys of the United States.

"When he was campaigning he said, 'If you all support me and vote for me I will be the president of the disadvantaged.' So we, the indigenous peoples, decided to support for him,” says Cecilia Moyobire, president of Moxeno Trinitario group of the southern part of the TIPNIS. “We trusted in him and voted because with other governments we were always forgotten, discriminated against, crushed, and massacred.”

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