Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: alexei barrionuevo, Bolivia, bolivia assassination plot, Bolivia constitution, bolivia dea, bolivia election, bolivia government, bolivia neo-liberal, bolivia opposition, bolivia politics, european mercenaries, Evo Morales, morales assination, morales hunger strike, Obama, philip goldberg, roger hollander
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, said that a reported attempt to assassinate him last week was linked to a vote in Congress that would allow him to run for re-election, and he suggested the plot was related to a coup attempt last year that led him to expel the American ambassador.
Mr. Morales said earlier last week that an elite police squad shot dead three men in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz who were involved in a thwarted plot to kill him, his vice president and his chief of staff. They were killed after they opened fire on commandos who tried to enter their hotel room.
On Saturday Mr. Morales said the police had determined the plot involved European mercenaries, with Bolivians aiding in the planning. Investigators are looking into how the suspected plot was organized and financed, with Mr. Morales saying he did not believe that Bolivian businessmen and oligarchs “financed so much money.”
Opponents of Mr. Morales said it was too early to describe the episode as a foiled assassination plot without detailed proof.
Mr. Morales said the episode was related to his five-day hunger strike, which ended Tuesday. He fasted to protest delays in voting on a measure that could allow residents of a gas-rich area to seek administrative autonomy for their provinces and make him eligible for re-election.
He used the bulk of a press conference here to detail the history of what he believes to have been involvement by American officials in attempts to overthrow him. In September he expelled American ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, accusing him of supporting rebellious groups in eastern Bolivia. Mr. Morales also later threw out officials from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
Mr. Morales said Saturday that he gave instructions to his vice president to intervene with certain “neo-liberal” groups. Police officers discovered arms, bombs and telescopic sights with silencers, he said.
Early Saturday, at a meeting of 12 South American leaders, the Bolivian president presented Mr. Obama, who was attending at the group’s invitation, with specific information about mercenaries who he said were operating in his country, said Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session. Mr. Obama responded in the meeting by saying that his administration does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country, Mr. Jagdeo said. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account.
Mr. Morales told reporters after the meeting that if Mr. Obama does not repudiate the alleged plot to kill him, “I might think it was organized through the embassy.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: boivia land, Bolivia, Bolivia constitution, bolivia election, bolivia opposition, bolivia referendum, Evo Morales, friedman-rudovsk, indigenous rights, land expropriation, mark weisbrot, obama administration, roger hollander
Jean Friedman-Rudovsk, La Paz, January 27, www.boliviarising.blogspot.com
If President Barack Obama were to decide that “change” includes rewriting the United States constitution, he would probably find himself on the curb of Pennsylvania Avenue quicker than you can say Bill of Rights. But for left-wing Latin American Presidents, redoing national charters has become a norm. On Sunday, Bolivia became the most recent nation to be reborn. (See pictures of people around the world watching Obama’s Inauguration.)
“I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all my brothers and sisters who have used their democratic participation to re-found Bolivia,” President Evo Morales said on Sunday night in front of thousands of exhilarated supporters after more than 60% of his nation had voted in favor of a new constitution. “Internal and external colonialism have come to an end.”
It isn’t all that novel a move: the new constitution is Bolivia’s 17th. But it’s the first to be written via a specially elected delegate assembly and the first to undergo a national vote. (The last constitution was written and enacted by Parliament in 1967 without the participation of a single indigenous person). An elaborate document, it expands the rights of the indigenous majority. Bolivia’s 36 native tongues are now all official languages, along with Spanish, and Parliament will include ethnic group representation. Also, the text solidifies state control over natural resources and makes access to water a basic human right.
The win was widely expected, as was the strong showing in support of the constitution by rural and highland voters. But like Bolivia’s recall vote last August, in which Morales won 67% national approval, Sunday showed that Bolivia’s east/west regional divide that brought the country to the brink of civil war last September remains. The constitution was heavily rejected in the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija where wealthy land and business owners dominate local politics. Criticism ranged from the constitution’s elimination of Catholicism’s privileged position as official religion to worry about “extreme indigenous power.”
But for many, the document’s specifics were only a part of Sunday’s contest. Five year-old Joaquin Claros, who was hanging onto his mom’s arm outside a La Paz polling station on Sunday, knew what was at stake. Mom and dad, he exclaimed excitedly, had voted “for Evo!”
“Evo,” of course, wasn’t a ballot option (it was either Yes or No on various categories). But Sunday’s vote was considered just as much a referendum on the President as it was on the text. Government officials therefore interpret the 20-plus point victory as a solid win. Opposition leaders say that the document’s rejection in the eastern part of the country means that there must be some move toward compromise.
Compromise may in fact have already been key in the constitution’s passage. An earlier version allowed for expropriation of large estates — a hot button issue in a country where less than one percent of the population owns more than two thirds of the land. But negotiations resulted in leaving the current holdings as is and limiting future landownership. On Sunday voters had a choice between limiting ownership to 10,000 or 25,000 acres per person limit. They voted 75% in favor of the former.
An agreement before the referendum avoided a battle over re-election. Sometime after Morales’ ally Venezuela President Hugo Chavez failed in his bid at ending presidential term limits, Morales agreed to keep Bolivia’s re-election laws as is. He is therefore able to compete in this December’s Presidential elections for one more five-year term — but no more. That doesn’t mean he wont try “to pull a Chavez,” noted Santa Cruz resident Alberto Montero last week, referring to the Venezuelan’s attempt to pass a separate referendum on indefinite re-election after Venezuela’s new constitution was approved.
“But there will be more wrangling down the line.” A constitution is only a foundation,” says Carlos Alarcon, a constitutional lawyer and Vice Minister of Justice under former President Carlos Mesa. There is likely to be debate about any new legislation based on the language of the new charter. “Bolivia is going to have to strengthen its institutions — both state and judicial — if this new constitution and the new laws are going be implemented.”
In Washington, the Obama Administration responded positively to Bolivia’s vote. Responding to a reporter’s question, acting State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said, “we congratulate the Bolivian people on the referendum… we look forward to working with the Bolivian Government in ways we can to further democracy and prosperity in the hemisphere.” Says Mark Weisbrot, director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research: “it’s a hopeful sign” for the future of relations between the two countries. The previous U.S. administration would most likely have remained silent on Bolivia’s electoral processes.
Republished from Time
Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: aymara, Bolivia, Bolivia constitution, bolivia election, Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, humala, indigenous rights, land reform, Latin America, latin america government, mas, menchu, native rights, pachamama, Rafael Correa, roger hollander, sara miller llana, zapatista
BOWLERS IN BOLIVA: Aymara women went to the polls to vote on a new constitution Sunday. It passed.
Enrique Castro-Mendivil/ Reuters
Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 27, 2009 edition
La Paz, Bolivia – Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, easily won his campaign for a new constitution Sunday – promising vast new powers to the country’s indigenous majority and bolstering his political clout.
Critics say Mr. Morales is dangerously dividing the nation and merely following in the footsteps of populist leftist allies Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, who have also rewritten their constitutions to invest the executive branch with more power.
True or not, something more is happening: This is a victory for Latin American indigenous groups marginalized since the Spanish conquest 500 years ago, say analysts, and some see it as a global human rights and racial-equity landmark.
“Bolivia’s successful referendum process is precedent-setting with respect to indigenous empowerment worldwide,” says Robert Albro, an expert on social and indigenous movements in Latin America at American University in Washington.
Exit polls show that almost 60 percent of Bolivians voted in favor of a new magna carta that recognizes 36 different indigenous groups and secures a place for them in Congress.
“It is really an unbelievable moment in Bolivian history,” says Mr. Albro.
He attributes Morales’s success in Bolivia, starting with his election in 2005 and capped by this referendum, to the urbanization of Bolivian society and the growing political clout of the indigenous, which has created an indigenous elite.
The obligatory vote on Sunday was peaceful, free of the sometimes deadly confrontation that has marked other moments leading up to constitutional reform in Bolivia – with Morales and his opposition, mainly based in the mineral-rich, tropical lowlands, locked in battles over regional autonomy and control over gas reserves.
The new constitution contains over 400 articles but its centerpiece is the effort to “decolonize” Bolivian society.
The indigenous comprise the majority of the poor, in the poorest nation in South America, and were only granted the right to vote less than 60 years ago.
The new constitution reserves seats in Congress and in the Constitutional Court for smaller indigenous groups, and grants all of them autonomy that will, among other things, allow them to practice community justice, according to their own customs.
In one of the more controversial articles, Bolivia now guarantees freedom of religion, extending the same recognition to the Andean god Pachamama, the Earth god of the Andes, as it does to the Christian God.
The current Constitution “recognizes and supports” the Roman Catholic church.
Sunday’s vote included another referendum that asked Bolivians if they wanted limit the size of land holdings to no more than 5,000 or 10,000 hectares – in a government effort to more equitably distribute land. Official polling results aren’t expected until Feb. 4.
Still, Morales supporters expressed jubilation at the outcome. “We are getting back everything we lost: money and culture,” says Paulina Quiñonez, an Aymaran street vendor in La Paz. “They have robbed so much from us.”
This vote comes as other nations in Latin America have moved, since the 1990s, toward constitutional revisions that recognize “plurinational” states, beginning with Colombia in 1991, says Albro.
The Zapatista movement in Mexico, which emerged in 1994, gave rise to a transnational movement, and presidential candidates Ollanta Humala in Peru and Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala have also given the movement a boost.
Around the globe, countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have also gone a long way toward recognizing the “cultural rights” of native peoples. But Albro says that Bolivia’s new constitution sets a precedent because of its degree of detail to guarantee the political, cultural, and economic rights of the majority indigenous population by a president of indigenous descent. “Usually such constitutional reforms have been carried out to better ‘recognize’ indigenous peoples but by largely nonindigenous governments,” he says.
It was a goal that teetered on the brink of failure.
At one point, Bolivian opposition groups boycotted the process and protests turned deadly. In the end, a final draft constitution was only made possible via a series of negotiations and concessions made on the part of Morales and his political party (MAS). Of more than 400 articles, more than a quarter of them were modified.
Morales remains widely popular despite a strong opposition. He won 67 percent of support in a recall referendum in August, higher than the passage of the constitution. But the new constitution allows him to run for another consecutive term, which would end in 2014.
Some worry that the changes are simply a tool to hold onto power. Critics compare Morales to Mr. Chávez in Venezuela, who is holding a referendum next month to allow indefinite reelection for heads of state. “This is a clear victory for the poor,” says Hugo Campos, a retired businessman in El Paz. “But this is too much like Chávez. They are just trying to dominate, and create divisions between [Bolivian] society and even with the US so they can dominate more.”
Opposition forces say that the new constitution is further dividing Bolivian society. “This creates two types of citizens, one that is of [indigenous] origin and one that is not,” says Luis Eduardo Siles, a former congressman and fierce Morales critic. “There was not this hatred in our society before.”
And he says battles are bound to continue. For starters, it is unclear how the constitution, which leaves vast space for more protest and wrangling, will be implemented. “This doesn’t solve any of the real problems. It will just create more fights,” says Mr. Siles.
Indeed, to impliment the reforms outlined by the new constitution will require the passage of dozens of new laws. To get those through Congress, Morales will have to work with the oppostion.
Miguel Centellas, an assistant political science professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland who writes a blog on Bolivian politics, says that not only will the sides dig in their heels, but new factions have arisen out of the process.
The opposition parties have splintered over negotiations over the constitution.
Some Morales supporters are angered by the concessions.
“I see this as yet another crisis in a series of crises,” Mr. Centellas says. “I don’t think the referendum will solve anything. … The country will remain just as polarized.”
CHÁVEZ, CASTRO, AND MORALES: A Bolivian woman walks past an Evo Morales campaign poster that includes the leftist leaders of Venezuela and Cuba. Morales denies any financial support from Venezuela.