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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

Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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