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Supporters, Opponents of Bolivia's President Hold Rallies


Thousands of Bolivians marched both for and against President Evo Morales late Saturday, as four eastern provinces declared greater autonomy from the central government.

Critics of President Morales rallied in the states of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando to celebrate their greater independence - a move the government has called illegal.

Supporters of the Bolivian president marched in Bolivia's capital, La Paz, to celebrate a new draft constitution approved by a pro-Morales majority.

The four provinces in the eastern lowlands object to a new constitution that boosts presidential powers and increases the rights of Bolivia's indigenous majority. Indigenous Bolivians live mainly in the more impoverished western highlands and form the core of Mr. Morales' support.

The constitution will be put to a referendum next year.

Mr. Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, wants to break up the large landholdings of the eastern farmers, many of whom are of European descent, and redistribute the property among indigenous groups.

He also wants to redistribute the nation's oil and gas wealth, which is centered in the east.

The four provinces are seeking to keep much of the tax revenues they generate. They say they do not want independence, but to retain control of their wealth.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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