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Bolivian police free Amazon protest marchers
Bolivian police free hundreds of protesters detained during march against Amazon highway
By The Associated Press

RURRENABAQUE, Bolivia (AP) ' Bolivian police forces have freed hundreds of Amazon Indians detained during a protest march against a highway they fear will damage their lands.

Interior Minister Sat Loretta has told a news conference that police decided to free the detainees Monday after hundreds of local residents blocked the runway to the airport to stop authorities from flying the prisoners out of town.

Loretta says the decision was made "to prevent confrontations."

Police detained the marchers Sunday in an act that some protesters called unnecessarily aggressive. Bolivian Defense Minister Cecilia Chicano resigned Monday, saying she didn't agree with the government's decision to break up the march.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

RURRENABAQUE, Bolivia (AP) ' Bolivia's defense minister has resigned in protest over a crackdown in Indians protesting an Amazon highway they say will cause damage to their lands.

Celicia Chacon says she did not agree with the government decision to break up a march against the highway project and detain hundreds of protesters.

About 100 protesters seized the landing strip in the town of Rurrenabaque on Monday to prevent police from using it to fly detainees out of the area.

The protest poses a dilemma for President Evo Morales. While he sympathizes with Indian causes, he says the 190-mile (300-kilometer) highway is essential for Bolivia's economy. It is to connect Brazil with Pacific ports in Chile and Peru.

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