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(Dec 02, 2007) Bolivia is now at a critical junction. Four departments (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando) rich in oil, soy and cattle declared autonomy on December 15, 2007, while three others (La Paz, the "de facto" capital of the country, Potosi and Oruro, with heavy indigenous population) are in complete support of the government of President Evo Morales. The conflict and declaration of territorial division was sparked by the approval of a new constitution by a constituent assembly of supporters of the government meeting in emergency.

The new constitution is aimed at establishing a 'new Bolivia' by empowering and giving voice to the Quechua, Aymara, and other indigenous peoples who make up the majority of the population in Bolivia, and was promised by Mr. Morales in his campaign and election two years ago. It will also bring forth radical land reform, limiting the size of land ownership. It is precisely this reform that provoked the strong reaction and rejection by the departments which declared the autonomy.

Both sides claim that they have enough supporters to fight for their causes as shown by large demonstrations held in Santa Cruz, in favor of autonomy, and in La Paz, in support of the government of Mr. Morales.

The government promises that the indigenous population will never be ignored again and that it will not allow the division of the country by anyone; but at the same time, it also promises that it is open to dialogue. The autonomy legislation and the proposed constitution are subject to a referendum that will take place early in 2008. (Richard Lapper, Bolivia Set on Collision Course over Autonomy, FINANCIAL TIMES, Dec. 17, 2007, at 6.)

Author: Dario Ferreira More by this author
Topic: Sovereignty More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Bolivia More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 12/02/2007