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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 01:08 GMT
Bolivia 'risks revolt over land'
Bolivia's President Evo Morales delivers a speech in Santa Cruz province
Evo Morales intends to redistribute up to a fifth of Bolivia's land
Bolivia's President Evo Morales has warned of mass demonstrations if the country's Senate does not approve his plans for land reform.

He said the people would rise up and implement the reforms "by force" if they were not passed into law.

He also ruled out any compromise with the big landowners who oppose his plans to redistribute underused land.

Indigenous protesters from the eastern province of Santa Cruz are marching to the capital in support of the measures.

But landowners in the province, one of the country's most fertile, have threatened to withhold agricultural produce from the rest of Bolivia if the plans are approved.

In September, demonstrators - mainly poor indigenous farmers - blocked roads into the city of Santa Cruz, claiming the opposition was trying to stall the government's plans.

'People power'

Mr Morales, who was elected last year, has vowed to redistribute 200,000 sq km (77,000 sq miles) by the end of his term in 2011.

Llamas in the Bolivian highlands
Indigenous and peasant families want a share of Bolivia's land

The agrarian reform bill was passed by Bolivia's lower house of Congress on Wednesday.

The Senate, where Mr Morales's party does not have a majority, is due to vote on the reforms next week.

The opposition has said it will modify the proposals.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Morales said the government would respect properties, of whatever size, that had been obtained legally and were being productively used.

But, he said, non-producing estates would revert to the state to be redistributed to "those most in need".

He said some landowners would not agree but that he could "only believe in the power of the people, because that is the engine that drives history in our country".




SEE ALSO
Bolivians stage roadblock protest
20 Sep 06 |  Americas
Struggle for land in Bolivia
14 Sep 06 |  Americas
Morales seeks radical land reform
03 Aug 06 |  Americas
Evo Morales 'padlocked' in palace
05 Apr 06 |  Americas
Bolivia head starts land handout
04 Jun 06 |  Americas



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