Monday, May 05, 2008


85% Vote For Autonomy At A Special Referendum!

At last.

After weeks of squabbling between the central government and the civic leaders of Santa Cruz, a special referendum was held on the 4th of May to approve new statutes which would effectively make Santa Cruz a self governing state within Bolivia. As expected 84% voted for this radical change. One data however which should be interesting are the amount of absentions. There are conflicting reports - some claim 20%, others put it at 40%. The President, in claiming the latter statistic, is trumpeting the illegitimacy of the process.

The Bolivian government view the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional. Civic leaders and their supporters claim otherwise - the referendum is the endgame of a 3 year process which allowed Bolivian states, for the first time, to elect their own governors.

Four other states are planning to hold their own referendums. The current trends, especially in Eastern Bolivia and parts of the valley region point to a system not unlike the one in the USA - where states have a special rights and a high degree of self government.

Bolivia however is run by a central government in La Paz, the capital of the nation. For instance simple immigration paperwork instead of being done in regional offices can only be processed in La Paz; regional leaders also claim that too much income from wealthy regional economies is channelled to the central government.

The current government, however under President Evo Morales, believe only a socialist style central government can effectively meet the just aspirations and rights of the poorer indigenous sector of the nation and guarantee a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth. This of course runs against the grain of the regional civic leaders emphasis on free markets and decentralization. To complicate matters mutual suspicion between regional civic leaders and the central government is also driven by their racial, ethnic and cultural differences.

So what's going to happen next?

The government and the governors of the fledgling autonomous Bolivian states will meet to resolve the constitutional crisis these referendums have provoked.

Pray for goodwill, mutual trust and a spirit of compromise to characterize these meetings.

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