Monday, May 05, 2008

Resource Separatism Brewing in Bolivia

The wealthier Santa Cruz province has been making noises for some time about greater autonomy from Evo Morales' Bogota government and its populous, indigenous, and poor Andean political base. Santa Cruz voted on an autonomy referendum yesterday. While Morales' redistribution plans may take things too far - at least in the eyes of Santa Cruz residents - greater autonomy for the province could also mean greater poverty for the country as a whole.

"We do not want the creation of another republic," said Carlos Pablo Klinsky, a provincial lawmaker who helped draft the statute. "But we do want control over our own destiny and our own resources."

The referendum's opponents, many of whom were indigenous migrants from the highlands, denounced it as an unconstitutional ploy by the province's light-skinned political elite.

"This statute is grossly illegitimate," said René Hilari, 28, a lawyer who lives in Plan Tres Mil, as stone-throwing protesters gathered nearby amid the stench of burning trash and open sewage. "The elite of Santa Cruz want to push this autonomy down the throat of the nation and we do not want it."

Although the statute was expected to be approved, efforts by Morales's supporters in Santa Cruz to encourage people to weaken its legitimacy by not voting also appeared to have succeeded. Preliminary analysis by electoral officials showed that almost 40 percent of eligible voters did not vote.

The statute would give Santa Cruz the ability to elect its own legislature, create its own police force and raise new taxes for public works. It is expected to allow the province to negotiate its own royalty agreements with energy companies.

And it would also effectively halt Morales's efforts to break up large rural estates in the province and redistribute the land among impoverished indigenous migrants.

1 comment:

The Neither Party said...

I saw a photo of the Santa Cruz electoral commission yesterday.
Guess what? Instead of any kind of pluralistic representation, there were apparently no indigenous folks among them--all seemingly Spanish elites.

I also visited this site:
which seems to claim that at some polling places, voters were given pre-marked ballots all voting "Si" to the referendum. Fine if one was wanting to vote for the resolution, but apparently an automatic disqualifier if one wanted to vote against it.
Little wonder that people became outraged--wouldn't you, too?