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Indians in Bolivia seek self-determination

Even though they make up 61 percent of the population, Indians in Bolivia have long been relegated at the bottom of society.

But in recent years, indigenous leaders have begun to exercise political power. Last year, they were behind the ouster of former president Gonzalo Snchez de Lozado.

Of the country's 314 municipalities, 200 have mayors and other officials who are Indian. In rural areas, Indians have taken over by kicking out the "official" government. Some talk of forming their own nation in hopes of exercising greater control over their affairs.

Indigenous leaders are pushing current president Carlos Mesa to take over the country's oil and gas industry, currently run by private companies. But in a Sunday referendum where the Indian turnout was heavy, more than 60 percent of voters agreed with Mesa's plan to expand development. Mesa plans to raise royalties that go to the government.

Get the Story:
Where the Incas Ruled, Indians Are Hoping for Power (The New York Times 7/17)
A Treasure of the Andes, Ancient Demons Included (The New York Times 7/17)
Bolivians Support Gas Plan and Give President a Lift (The New York Times 7/19)
Bolivians Vote to Boost Control of Gas Reserves (Knight Ridder 7/19)