Conflict over Bolivia’s constitutional reform
Rich lowland states fight Evo Morales’ plan to share revenues with poor, indigenous highland regions
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: Bolivia saw massive demonstrations on Saturday in favour of and against President Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president. Morales and his majority coalition are proposing a new constitution, which would grant more power to the country’s indigenous majority, give the federal government more control over the country’s national resources, increase taxes, limit landholdings, and allow a president to serve two consecutive terms. Morales was elected two years ago by a majority of voters on a platform of broad social change and is seen as a representative of the country’s long-impoverished majority. The country’s divided along the lines of race and class over the new constitution. Opposition members in the wealthy states oppose it. The lowland states want to keep two-thirds of their tax revenues, while Morales’ reforms would assure some of that wealth is redistributed to the poorer highland regions. As with coverage of Venezuela’s recent constitutional reform, much of the media has focused only on the term-limit question. On Saturday, Bolivia’s four lowland states declared their intention to become autonomous. Those states are home to most of country’s natural gas reserves and to the wealthy, most of whom are white or mestizo. Also on Saturday, Morales held a rally to celebrate the new proposed constitution in La Paz, located in the highlands, where the country’s majority lives.
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
December 15, 2007
BRANKO MARINKOVIC, PRESIDENT, SANTA CRUZ COMMITTEE (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Mr. President, stop discrediting our autonomy. I suggest you read our statute! I suggest you read our statute, and see that this autonomy will unite, not separate, as you are saying, lying to the people and to the world.
CROWD: Approved! Approved!
MAN’S VOICE: Begin the autonomy fiesta!
La Paz, Bolivia
December 15, 2007
PLACARD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The people united will never be defeated!
PLACARD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): “U.S. ambassador – Get Out!”
CROWD: Evo! Evo!
EVO MORALES, PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They tried to block our Constitutional Assembly with their autonomy movement! We guarantee states’ autonomy, and also for the regions and the indigenous peoples! Autonomy is not dividing up Bolivia, dividing up education, dividing up the police or the army.
SILVIA LAZARTE, PRESIDENT, THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We have been entrusted with the task of writing the new political constitution of Bolivia.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Bolivia’s proposed new constitution would:
• “make all hydrocarbons the property of the Bolivarian people.”
• “limit the size of plantations… guarantee[ing] the right to private property… ‘as long as it is accomplishing a social function’… and is not ‘against the collective interest.’”
• “recognize the precolonial right of the indigenous peoples to their territory.”
• “not accept any foreign military base in the country.”
give the federal government more control over states’ taxes to insure a more equitable redistribution of wealth.
– La Jornada, Mexico City, Mexico
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.