Jan 27 - Bolivian coca growers demand that government push through with a controversial highway plan shelved last year. Michaela Cabrera reports.
Bolivian coca growers are supporting the construction of a controversial road that crosses the Amazon. On Thursday - they marched from the eastern Amazon to the capital La Paz. The government called off construction of the road late last year, after protests from indigenous groups who say the road will destroy their land. The controversy is a major challenge for leftist President Evo Morales -- who gets much of his support from the indigenous base. He eventually gave in to pressure by the impoverished groups. But now coca growers are putting pressure on Morales, saying a new road will bring development. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MARCHER SAYING: "When there's a road here, our people will be better off. Our community will have health care and education." However, the calls to have the road built come with a condition. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SEMU SAYING: "But when there is a road in the reserve, we don't want people to be subjugated and we don't want people to exploit the reserve." The previous demonstrations have hurt Morales, who has put the road construction at the heart of his infrastructure programme. It's a tough call for his government. Critics have said the plan raises questions about his commitment to the environment and to indigenous rights. Michaela Cabrera, Reuters.