Breaking away in Bolivia Posted by: McQ
on Sunday, December 16, 2007
Since the election of avowed socialist Evo Morales to the presidency of Bolivia, some have not been particularly happy with the direction he is trying to take the country. Yesterday, four of Bolivia's states have announced they are autonomous and separated from the central government. As can be imagined, this has not been well received by the Morales government:
In the capital city La Paz on Saturday, Morales addressed thousands of flag-waving supporters in the Plaza Murillo, defending the new constitution and lashing out against what he called the racist policies of Bolivia's elite.
"They must give back the money they took from us," he told a cheering crowd, which included members of the Quechua and Aymara tribes. "We will retroactively investigate all the big fortunes, and the corrupt are now trembling with fear."
Morales also cautioned those who he said want a "a division, a coup d'etat," the AP reported.
"We won't permit Bolivia to be divided," he warned.
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."
And, as you might have surmised, the 4 states claiming autonomy are the highest natural-gas producing states in the nation.
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.
The officials displayed a green-bound document containing a set of statutes paving the way to a permanent separation from the Bolivian government.
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 statutes will be ratified," said Oscar Ortiz, Santa Cruz senator. "With a public referendum, the people of our region will legitimize their will."
Per AP, about 35% of Bolivia's population live in those 4 states. It is also an area where many of European ancestry are found and where much of its private wealth is located.
Morales, who is obviously not going to take this lying down said:
"Bolivia is a nation among nations," he said Saturday, referring to the diversity of Indian nations whose traditions date back centuries.
"We are not a country of blue-eyed, green-eyed folks only. It's a plurinational country made of dark-skinned and white-skinned. This new constitution will unite us."
Doesn't seem like Santa Cruz region agrees. Activities which could erupt into violence have already been reported:
In the meantime, Bolivian network ATV showed what appeared to be armed, pro-government protesters creating blockades around the town of Yapacani, on the outskirts of Santa Cruz.
It'll be interesting to see how Morales chooses to handle this situation, especially given that one of his most trusted advisers and well known hot-head is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.