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SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — A growing indigenous movement has helped topple successive governments in Bolivia and Ecuador and, angered by the destruction of Andean coca crops, now threatens the stability of other countries where Indians are in the majority.
Drawing support from European leftists and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the long-marginalized Indians are tasting political influence for the first time since the Spanish conquest and beginning to wrest power from South America’s white elites.
The leader of Bolivia’s Movement to Socialism party (MAS), Evo Morales, talks about “uniting Latin America’s 135 Indian nations to expel the white invasion, which began with the landing of Columbus in 1492.”
Felipe Quispe, who leads the Pachkutec Indigenous Movement, talks about restoring the ancient Inca empire over Bolivia and neighboring Peru — where one-time shoeshine boy Alejandro Toledo became the nation’s first president of Indian descent in 2001.
A one-time guerrilla who fought in Guatemala and led a Bolivian offshoot of Peru’s insurgent Shining Path, Mr. Quispe withdrew his group of deputies from Bolivia’s parliament last year to prepare for what he believes is an “inevitable resumption of armed struggle.”
In the latest Bolivian upheaval, indigenous groups forced the resignation of President Carlos Mesa two weeks ago and then blocked his constitutional successors from replacing him as mobs besieged the legislature.
(Posted on June 24, 2005)