Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Bolivia leader redistributes land

Bolvian President Evo Morales (17/02/2009)
Mr Morales has strong support from Bolivia's indigenous groups

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has handed over thousands of hectares of land seized from large-scale owners to indigenous farmers.

Mr Morales said the move would encourage people to put country over profit and would end human rights violations against indigenous people.

He had accused the previous owners of abusing workers and misusing the land.

Bolivians voted in a new constitution in January aimed at empowering the country's indigenous majority.

"Today, from here, we are beginning to put an end to the giant landholdings of Bolivia," Mr Morales said at a ceremony in the east of the country.

"Private property will always be respected but we want people who are not interested in equality to change their thinking and focus more on country than currency."

Mr Morales told a gathering of Guarani Indians on Saturday that some people "don't want to end large landownership" but that they should "voluntarily give up their land to people who have none," the Associated Press reported.

Mr Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and has strong support from the country's indigenous groups.

The new constitution gives sweeping rights to Bolivia's 36 indigenous groups in the areas of government, the judiciary and land holdings.

It also allows agrarian land reform to take place by limiting the size of rural landholdings in future sales.

The document was approved in a referendum by 61% of voters, but was rejected in the lowland regions where Bolivia's wealth is concentrated.

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