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Monday, January 26, 2009

Bolivia approves constitutional referendum to expand power of indigenous majority
Tarah Park at 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian voters on Sunday approved a new constitution [text, PDF, in Spanish] that places more power in the hands of the country's indigenous majority. The leftist constitution, which passed by a 59 percent majority, is said by President Evo Morales [official website, BBC profile] himself a member of the indigenous majority, to be the start of the new Bolivia [El Deber report, in Spanish]. The constitution serves to remove traditional colonial elites from power, and to challenge US influence. It also redistributes land [JURIST report], and creates seats in Congress for minority indigenous groups. The new constitution was strongly opposed in the conservative eastern lowlands, a stronghold of European descendants. The residents there complain that it focuses too strongly upon reinstating power to the indigenous majority, and does not address the capitalism of the eastern plains' cattle and soy industries. The adoption of the constitution does not resolve this divide, and opposition leaders indicated they will continue to oppose it [Financial Times report].

In October 2008, the Bolivian National Congress ratified [JURIST report] the proposed reforms [JURIST news archive] after Morales agreed not to run for re-election in 2014, setting up the national referendum. In August 2008, Morales won a referendum to continue his presidency, which he personally proposed [JURIST reports] in a bid to legitimize his campaign for the constitutional changes.

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