Bolivian vote a win for natives
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

  


Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is covered in flower petals as he arrives at a polling station in central Bolivia on Sunday. (Dado Galdieri / AP)


LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivian voters embraced a new constitution Sunday that promises more power for the long-suffering indigenous majority and grants leftist President Evo Morales a shot at remaining in office through 2014.

The charter passed easily in a country where many can still recall when Indians were forbidden to vote.

Its sometimes vague wording and resistance from Bolivia’s mestizo and European-descended minority foreshadows more political turmoil in an Andean nation polarized by race and class.

Morales, Bolivia’s first Indian president, says the charter will "decolonize" South America’s poorest country by recovering indigenous values lost under centuries of oppression dating back to the Spanish conquest.

Bolivia’s Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and dozens of other indigenous groups only won the right to vote in 1952, when a revolution broke up the large haciendas on which they had lived as peons for generations.

"The poorest people are the majority. The people with money are only a tiny few. That’s what you have to consider," said Eloy Huanca outside a polling place in El Alto, a sprawling satellite city of La Paz.

"They ran things before, and now it’s our turn."

However, opposition leaders warn the constitution does not reflect Bolivia’s growing urban population, which mixes both Indian blood and tradition with a new Western identity, and could leave non-Indians out of the picture.

"People will go to vote for the possibility of dreaming for a better country — but a country for all of us," said Ruben Costas, opposition governor of the eastern state of Santa Cruz.

"We should all be part of this change."

The proposed constitution was backed by 56.8 per cent of voters and opposed by 43.2 per cent, with more than 90 per cent of precincts reporting, according to a quick count by a private polling company.

 

Source: The Associated Press

 
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