Organizers say Belgian motorcycle rider Eric Palante has died at the Dakar Rally.

Organizers said they found Palante's body Friday morning when a truck went out looking for him. He was discovered on a part of the fifth stage, which most riders completed on Thursday.

The cause of death was being investigated, and officials offered few details.

Two other rally-related deaths were reported earlier Friday. Police said two people following the race died on Thursday when their vehicle overturned in rough terrain in northern Argentina.

The Dakar, raced over rugged terrain in difficult-to-control areas, often produces fatalities. Last year, French motorcyclist Thomas Bourgin was killed in a collision with a Chilean police car. Two fans also died in a collision between a support vehicle and two taxis.

The Dakar, raced over rugged terrain in difficult-to-control areas, often produces fatalities. Last year, French motorcyclist Thomas Bourgin was killed in a collision with a Chilean police car. Two fans also died in a collision between a support vehicle and two taxis.

With the race about to enter Bolivia for the first time in its history – and traversing the famed Salar de Uyuni salt flats – President Evo Morales has run into opposition with Aymara Indians who are protesting the races route through the country’s renowned tourist destination.

While the indigenous threatened to block the race over fears that crowds will leave trash and scare off flamingos, and leave deep marks on the shiny white surface, they have since backed off the warning.

The government of President Evo Morales said it would send 3,500 security force members to the area to guarantee the passage of competitors in the Argentina to Chile rally.

Group leader Guillermo Mamani said the Aymara don’t want confrontation, “We want dialogue and to look after the place where we live.”

For his part, Morales has been a major supporter of the rally, which he sees as a public relations and tourism boon to the Andean nation. Morales will travel this weekend to Uyuni, in the southwestern department of Potosí, to meet with motorcycle and quad racers competing in the rally and later host a dinner for them.

Auto and truck racers are taking a different route that does not include Bolivia.

Along with the indigenous Bolivians, a group of Chilean activists has taken their case against the Dakar Rally to the Southern Cone nation’s Supreme Court.

The activists, led by Paola González, vice-president of the College of Archaeologists of Chile, argue that the race has severely damaged over 250 sites classified as historic monuments in the past six years it has been held in South America.

“In Chile, a national monuments law considers this a punishable crime," González told FRANCE 24. “Nevertheless, the destruction with impunity of our national heritage continues.”

The threat of environmental; damage has also led Ecuador to turn down an opportunity to host stages of the race, but Chile looks like it will play host to the rally for years to come as incoming President Michelle Bachelet welcomed the Dakar in 2009 during her first term in office.

The 2014 Dakar Rally began Jan 5 in Argentina and will finish Jan 18 in Chile.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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