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BOLIVIA
Vote moves forward
10/31/2008
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Calm returns as Congress approves date for constitution’s referendum.

Opposition and government-allied lawmakers approved a referendum on Bolivia´s draft charter that has divided the country, putting an end to month´s of clashes and violence.

“Let them say what they will, do what they will, neo-liberalism will not return,” Bolivian President Evo Morales told thousands of campesinos and laborers packed into the Plaza Murillo in La Paz, after signed the law to call for the Jan. 25 vote.

Deadly clashes, riots and protests have gripped Bolivia since August, when the eastern opposition departments of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija, voted for autonomy measures that teetered on a separatist movement. Evo Morales was also ratified in his position in recall vote with 68 percent support. Some 30 people, including children, were killed in an ambush of Evo Morales supporters in the opposition bastion city of Pando.

Dialogue between the government and opposition prefects stalled, and eastern departmental leaders called for radical protests against the government, which grew more severe after Morales called the referendum for Dec. 7, which was later overturned by a high electoral court that said only Congress could call the vote. The draft constitution was approved by pro-Morales assembly members in December 2007. Opposition representatives boycotted the vote.

Four opposition prefects refused to sign an agreement in talks urged by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the pro tempore president of the Union of South American Nations.

Opposition lawmakers, mostly of the right-wing Podemos party, agreed to hold the referendum in early 2009 under the condition that Morales not run for a reelection under the new charter.

Both parties agreed to call for elections in December 2009. Morales took office in January 2006.
—Latinamerica Press.


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