La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivian construction workers walked out on strike in a protest the country's president is claiming was aggravated by Americans.
The workers are protesting a planned highway project that would crisscross Bolivia from east to west.
Construction workers were joined by workers from other industries in a 24-hour general strike organized by labor unions.
Joining the protests were Isiboro Indians and environmentalists who say the $415 million highway would destroy rainforest where endangered species live.
Morales angered opponents of the highway when he said previously that the road will be built through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park "whether they like it or not."
Some Indians threatened to shoot arrows at construction workers if they entered their reservation.
During a protest march Sunday near the capital La Paz, police fired tear gas at demonstrators and arrested several of them.
The demonstrators were participating in a march that began in August in the city of Trinidad. It was supposed to end in La Paz.
About 500 police attacked a tent camp of about 1,500 mostly Indian protesters. They beat some of them with batons, gagged others and forced dozens of them onto buses for relocation to neighboring towns.
The violence shown by the police toward the demonstrators contributed to Morales' decision to suspend work on the highway, he said in a brief statement.
He called the acts of police "inexcusable" and promised an investigation. He also said "the highway project remains suspended in the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park" until officials in the regions that it would cross decide whether to continue it.
During another demonstration against the highway in August, Morales said Americans incited the protesters.
He spoke on state-run television to say he had phone records made from the U.S. embassy to leaders of a protest march that included about 1,000 Indians and their supporters.
"It's a strategy of imperialism and the United States through its agencies to prevent national integration and provoke a confrontation between the people of western Bolivia and those from the east," Morales said during the broadcast.
U.S. embassy officials acknowledged they made the phone calls, but said they were merely gathering information for updates they provided to the U.S. State Department. They denied they were trying to incite the Aug. 15 demonstration.
Morales' accusations added to already strained relations with the United States.
In 2008, he expelled the U.S. ambassador and agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He accused them of trying to undermine his government.
Adolfo Moye, a Bolivian Indian leader of the demonstrations, has denied American agents tried to provoke the protests against the highway project.
Protesters also are concerned a highway would open the protected rainforest to oil exploration and lead to colonization of the area that is supposed to be reserved for Indians.
Morales says the highway is vital for Bolivia's economy. It would greatly improve transportation between the eastern and western parts of his country.
The Bolivian president has said he wants to protect the native land of the Indians but he has not ruled out the possibility of extracting gas from the area. Bolivia's economy relies heavily on mining and gas industries.
Morales did not back out of the highway project when he announced Tuesday it would be suspended. He merely expressed his outrage at the actions of police.
Bolivia's deputy interior minister, Marcos Farfan, is being mentioned in the Bolivian news media as a possible target of investigation because of the police crackdown. He reportedly led the police action Sunday. Farfan resigned Tuesday.
Defense Minister Cecilia Chacon also resigned this week. She said she was resigning in protest of the way police dispersed the demonstrators.
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