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Bolivia president begins march for constitutional referendum

[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] on Monday joined [press release, in Spanish] an estimated 10,000 supporters [AP report] as they began a 120-mile march from Caracollo to La Paz seeking congressional approval [JURIST report] of a national referendum on proposed reforms to the country's constitution [text]. Morales, who will not participate in the entire walk, said the demonstration was intended to persuade the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] to set a date for the referendum, which cannot move forward without the support of two-thirds of Congress. Morales said he expected the march to grow to more than a million participants by the time it reaches La Paz next week. BBC News has more. La Razon has local coverage, in Spanish.

Controversy has surrounded Morales' proposed constitutional amendments, which would distribute more of Bolivia's land and energy resource income to the country's indigenous population. Weeks of regional protests in affluent states opposing such income redistribution culminated in the president's accusation [AFP report] in September that opposition governors were engaged in a "civil coup against democracy." Several states have declared autonomy, and a provincial governor who refused to recognize Morales' September 12 declaration of martial law [Reuters report] in Pando province was later arrested [JURIST report] on genocide charges in connection with the deaths of several Morales supporters [CBC report] during demonstrations. Morales defended the governor's arrest [Reuters report] as "legal and constitutional."

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