Contextual Content

Autonomy vote of rich province in Bolivia illegal

Bolivia’s largest state Santa Cruz, voted on Sunday on an autonomy measure that would keep most of the state’s key natural gas revenues in their hands and would shelter the state’s vast soy plantations and cattle ranches from President Evo Morales’ plan to redistribute land to the poor. The referendum had been declared illegal and unconstitutional by Bolivia’s National Electoral Court, but as polls closed exit surveys conducted by local news media sympathetic to autonomy, showed as much as 85 percent support. The abstention rate was reported to be as high as 45%, up to 3 times higher than normal in Bolivia. This is attributed to the fact that anyone against autonomy or who believed that the vote was unconstitutional would likely have boycotted the polls.
There were violent protests against the vote in the poor Santa Cruz neighborhood of Plan 3000–a bastion of support for Morales populated by Indian immigrants from the poorer western highlands. The protesters not only boycotted the polls but also burned ballot boxes.

pepeboliviarefmay6

Story Transcript

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE: Bolivia’s largest state, Santa Cruz, voted on Sunday on an autonomy measure that would keep most of the state’s key natural gas revenues in their hands and would shelter the state’s vast soy plantations and cattle ranches from President Evo Morales’ plan to redistribute land to the poor. The referendum had been declared illegal and unconstitutional by Bolivia’s national electoral court. But as polls closed, exit surveys conducted by local news media sympathetic to autonomy showed as much as 85 percent support. The abstention rate was reported to be as high as 45 percent, up to three times higher than normal in Bolivia. This is attributed to the fact that anyone against autonomy or who believed that the vote was unconstitutional would likely have boycotted the polls. There were violent protests against the vote in the poor Santa Cruz neighborhood of Plan Tres Mil, a bastion of support for Morales populated by Indian immigrants from the poorer western highlands.

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SPEAKER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We will do to Costas (governor) what we did to (former president) Goni, friends.

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The protesters not only boycotted the polls but also burned ballot boxes.

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CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Down with autonomy!

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PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Racist separatism. That’s the key to understanding the referendum for autonomy in Santa Cruz in Bolivia this past Sunday. Santa Cruz, along with three other provinces who had referendums later this year want autonomy, but they want to secede from the rest of the country, especially the western part of Bolivia, where the indigenous populations is an extreme majority. It’s not such a majority in the eastern lowlands. Santa Cruz is part of the eastern lowlands, and it’s also the richest province in terms of natural resources in Bolivia. The results tell us that between 84 and 85 percent voted for (C), for "Yes, we want autonomy." And between 35 percent to 40 percent abstained.

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WOMAN (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Autonomy won, because, whether we voted or not, they would have won anyway because they don’t count us, the ones that didn’t participate. I didn’t vote, and they don’t include that. They say they got 85%, but only of the participants.

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This referendum is unconstitutional. These people didn’t even bother to vote because they knew the referendum was unconstitutional, not because Evo Moralels’ government, a legitimate government, told them, but because other Latin American countries, none of them recognized the referendum. It was a triumph for racist separatists. This means the white, land-owning oligarchy who has controlled Bolivia for the past 450 years. And now that Evo Morales’ government is trying to redistribute wealth and to give a little more of the wealth concentrated in the east to the western part of the country, where the majority indigenous population lives, obviously the oligarchy, with the help of the US via Philip Goldberg, the American ambassador in La Paz, plus the CIA, plus the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID, they’re trying to destabilize the country and blame it all on Evo Morales. No, it won’t happen, because the rest of South America is with Bolivia, and Bolivia’s march towards a more equitable system and more redistribution of wealth will not stop, whatever the autonomists say.

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