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Bolivia Votes to End Colonial State

Published: January 27, 2009 (Issue # 1443)



  • Bolivian President Evo Morales (c) at an event marking the result of a constitutional referendum in La Paz on Sunday.
    Photo: Reuters

LA PAZ, Bolivia Bolivians easily approved a new constitution granting more power to the indigenous majority, but its weak support in the opposition-controlled lowland east leaves the racially torn country divided as ever.

The constitution also gives its prime backer, leftist President Evo Morales, the opportunity to run for re-election and remain in power until 2014.

Bolivias first Indian president hailed the charters passage in Sundays peaceful referendum as the end of the colonial state in South Americas poorest country.

Here begins the new Bolivia. Here we begin to reach true equality, Morales told crowds packing the plaza in front of the presidential palace after an unofficial quick count of the vote showed the charter passing 59 percent to 41 percent.

The victory was historic in a nation where the oldest voters could still recall a time when Indians were forbidden to vote. But its rejection by the mestizo and European-descended minority foreshadows a political battle over vague clauses that seem to outline overlapping autonomous regions for both indigenous groups and eastern states.

Morales says the charter will decolonize Bolivia by championing indigenous values lost since the Spanish conquest. It also has clauses on land restribution and sets aside seats in Congress for minority indigenous groups.

Bolivias Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and dozens of other indigenous groups only won the right to vote in 1952, when a revolution broke up the large haciendas on which they had lived as peons for generations.

But even as Morales supporters joyously cheered the constitutions passage, opposition leaders celebrated as well.

Although a majority of voters backed the charter nationwide, drawing high margins in the pro-Morales highlands, the no vote won greater support in five of Bolivias nine states.

They say Morales focus on indigenous communitarism ignores the freewheeling capitalism that drives the eastern flats huge cattle ranches and powerful soy industry.

In five states, were rejecting the constitution. In five states we have another vision of the country, said Moises Shiriqui, the cowboy-hatted mayor of the eastern provincial capital Trinidad.

An unofficial tally by the Bolivian television network ATB showed the constitution winning with 59 percent of the vote. The quick count had a three-percentage point margin of error. The result was mirrored by two private exit polls. An official vote count will be announced Feb. 4.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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