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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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Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.