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BOLIVIA
Tarija approves autonomy
Latinamerica Press
7/3/2008
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With a 35 percent abstention rate, Bolivia�s eastern Tarija department approved a measure to increase its autonomy in a June 22 referendum.

According to preliminary results, 80 percent of voters opted in favor, the Bolivian government refused to recognize the legality of the vote.

Tarija is home to 86 percent of the countrys gas reserves, but more than half of the population lives in poverty. The series of autonomy referendums in four departments was ended there, after similar votes of around 80 percent in favor of more autonomy in the Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz departments.

Santa Cruz was the first to hold its referendum on May 4, followed by Beni and Pando on June 1. The abstention rate was above 35 percent in four departments, reaching 50 percent in Pando. Bolivian political analyst Jorge Lazarte said these referendums “are not decisive, but one more step in the dispute for national power that will be reflected in the revoking referendum, if held.”

On May 8, President Evo Morales called a referendum on his own term as well as the terms of Vice President Álvaro García Linera and the countrys nine governors — mostly from opposition parties — to be held on Aug. 10.

In order to stay in power, Morales must win more than the 53.7 percent that he received in the presidential elections in December 2006. The governors will also have to beat their latest election score.

However, authorities in the eastern opposition-held provinces announced on June 23 that they refuse to be submitted to a recall vote, saying it will not reverse the countrys crisis. — Latinamerica Press.


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