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The Collective
Sunday, December 16, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via CNN: Four Bolivian regions declare autonomy from government

Tensions were rising in Bolivia on Saturday as members of the country’s four highest natural gas-producing regions declared autonomy from the central government.

Thousands waved the Santa Cruz region’s green-and-white flags in the streets as council members of the Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando districts made the public announcement.

[...]

Council representatives vowed to legitimize the so-called autonomy statutes through a referendum that would legally separate the natural-gas rich districts from President Evo Morales’ government.

The move also aims to separate the states from Bolivia’s new constitution, which calls for, among other things, a heavier taxation on the four regions to help finance more social programs.

The natural resources are, of course, at the center of the entire situation:

Morales — who belongs to the Aymara indigenous group — nationalized the country’s oil and natural gas reserves when he took power in 2006, creating what became known as the “gas wars.”

Running on a platform of redistribution of wealth among Bolivia’s poor, Morales has defied countries such as Brazil and the United States for the exploration of Bolivia’s natural reserves.

In regards to the new constitution, the BBC reported this morning: Bolivia head praises reform plan:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has formally received a new draft constitution, ahead of two referendums due on its reform measures.

President Morales, a left-winger elected in December 2005, is Bolivia’s first indigenous president.

He made rewriting the constitution a key part of his reform agenda to give the indigenous majority greater political power, but the issue has deepened regional and ethnic divisions in the country.

He says the regions which are declaring autonomy are trying to split the country.

“We’re not going to let anyone divide Bolivia,” he told supporters on Saturday.

[...]

Pro-autonomy supporters object to the new constitution, which would allow consecutive five-year presidential terms, increase indigenous rights and redistribute wealth to the poorer highland areas of Bolivia.

Ethnic politics, dating back to the Spanish conquest, are central to the entire situation.

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1 Comment

  1. Drama indeed. The control of the resources (financial and natural) are at the center. However, even though the main media hints to separatism, the talk is too early. What the opposing regions want is to be able to manage their own resources and make their own decisions. Support for separatist movements are not wide spread yet. One has to be careful about that.

    Regarding the government’s constitution, it has played a significant role in deepening the differences. However, these differences were already there as Morales took over power. If you take a look at the government’s program, you’ll see the fundamental different positions with that of the opposition. For one, indigenous rights and a central role for the government are central.

    What is currently going on is a power struggle of political forces seeking to establish their respective hegemony. The fight is fierce and it seems to be getting even more interesting (scientifically speaking).

    Comment by Miguel — Monday, December 17, 2007 @ 6:38 am

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