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Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 23:36 UK

Morales in 'new liberation' plea

Bolivian President Evo Morales. File photo
Mr Morales wants to empower Bolivia's indigenous majority

President Evo Morales has begun marking the 200th anniversary of Bolivia's independence struggle, hailing Latin America's "second liberation".

His comments, in a small town high in the Andes mountains, referred to left-wing poll victories across the region.

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, said the Spanish colonisers had tried to exterminate the Indians and extract the continent's wealth.

He vowed that Latin America would not return to a past of exploitation.

Anger in Sucre

President Morales kicked off the festivities by appearing before a crowd of indigenous farmers in the small Andean town of Ravelo.

He said he had come to pay homage to the Indian fighters for independence born in the region.

Independence is a process - the first stage started in 1809 before we were under the Spanish crown and now we are still under the descendants of the Spanish, so we have to keep on fighting
Morales supporter

Mr Morales said the indigenous population in countries like Bolivia had fought back against the colonisers and their struggle was still going on.

He said victories of left-wing governments across Latin America meant the region would not return to exploitation.

Many of the indigenous people who packed on the town's main square had walked miles to see their president, the BBC's Candace Piette in Ravelo says.

"I think, independence is a process. The first stage started in 1809 before we were under the Spanish crown and now we are still under the descendants of the Spanish. So we have to keep on fighting," one man in the crowd said.

The festivities will continue in Bolivia's constitutional capital of Sucre over the next few days.

But there is much anger in Sucre that President Morales has decided not to attend officials celebrations there, our correspondent says.

She says many in the city oppose Mr Morales' plans to introduce a new constitution which gives Indians many rights.



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