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Bolivia faces separatist challenge

The Real News Network Analyst Pepe Escobar says the autonomy referendum in the rich lowland province of Santa Cruz on Sunday is unconstitutional. Escobar says "it’s a dagger in the heart of South American integration. It is a classic battle between a rich white minority and a poor indigenous majority, and its not surprising which side the US government is on."

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PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK ANALYST: What’s happening this Sunday in Bolivia is absolutely crucial, not only for the country but for the whole of the Americas.

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UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK

APRIL 21, 2008

EVO MORALES, PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): No Bolivian is in agreement with this division, there will always be this type of action from families that mislead the Bolivian people and the whole world.

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The ruling oligarchy in Santa Cruz, in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia, has called for a referendum. This is for, what they say, more autonomy in relation to the capital La Paz. In fact, this is the first step towards splitting up the country. The National Electoral Court declared that the referendum is illegal. But imagine if this was in China. But the government of Evo Morales has been very, very measured. Anyway, make no mistake: this is a right-wing counterrevolution against Evo. David Choquehuanca, his minister of foreign relations, said this is, I quote, "a true conspiracy against a democratically elected government." And look at what Evo himself has said about that:

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MORALES: If he (US Ambassador in Bolivia) respects the law, the constitution, and the union of the country, then I want him to say something. If he wants to harm Evo Morales, to divide Bolivia then he should say so face to face, because the most important thing is to be honest and not hide. We will respect the decision of a government such as the United States. But I want you to know, brothers and sisters from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Latin America, so far there has been nothing from the United States ambassador.

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A meeting of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas, composed of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, they have denounced, and I quote again, "destabilization plans in a separatist attempt." The Organization of American States, the OAS—sits in Washington—proposed a mediation. But the rich landlords, or dogs of war, I would say, in Santa Cruz are not listening. And why not? Because among other things, they’re all involved in big agribusiness. They are fighting a war against the government because of restrictions on their exports. And after all, the Bolivian government needed to alleviate the food crisis provoked by who? These same agribusinesses. The army, at least for now, is behind Evo and national unity, and so are his big South American neighbors Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. What Evo’s government is doing in Bolivia—and it’s being followed all over the world with enormous interest—is no less than, I quote themselves, "a democratic and cultural revolution." They have nationalized gas. They have called for a constituent assembly to re-found the country. They have invested in social programs. And the major taboo: they have transferred hundreds of thousands of hectares of land from big landowners to poor campesinos—peasants. No wonder the elite in Bolivia wants to bring this government down. And, yes, this is a war of whites against Indians, a war of rich against the poor. And it’s also part of a huge, ambitious plan B: break up Bolivia and have a gas-rich independent state in the eastern part of the country—a dagger in the heart of South American integration. Now, guess whom the Bush administration, the State Department, and the CIA is supporting?

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.