Coup In Bolivia: Military on alert
Coup In Bolivia: Military on alert
Bolivia’s military is on alert as four provinces prepare to formally declare their autonomy Saturday.Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, relatively wealthy states in the eastern lowlands, have announced they intend to create largely independent regional governments.
Authorities have sent 400 police officers to Santa Cruz to ensure security during the challenge to the Bolivian government.
The provinces object to President Evo Morales’s moves to overhaul the constitution to boost presidential powers and increase the rights of Bolivia’s indigenous majority. Indigenous Bolivians live mainly in the more impoverished western highlands and form the core of Mr. Morales’s support.
Mr. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, wants to break up the large landholdings of the eastern farmers, many of whom are of European descent, and redistribute the property among indigenous groups.
He also wants to redistribute the nation’s oil and gas wealth, which is centered in the east.
The four provinces are seeking to keep much of the tax revenues they generate. They say they do not want independence, but to retain control of their wealth.
Leaders in the region object to a Morales-backed constitution, approved Sunday in a vote boycotted by opposition lawmakers. The constitution would be put to a referendum next year.
The United States has urged Americans to defer travel to Bolivia.
Bolivia tense amid autonomy push Several of Bolivia’s nine regions want more autonomy
Security forces are on alert in Bolivia, ahead of rallies planned in four of the country’s richest regions.
The four provinces are set to declare autonomy at the demonstrations, after the wealthiest province, Santa Cruz, passed a key tax reform measure.The regions are angry at a new draft national constitution that includes greater state control of the economy.
But the president has warned against taking steps towards autonomy and extra police and soldiers have been deployed.
The draft constitution has already been the trigger of violence, with at least three people killed in the central city of Sucre in clashes in November.
The Santa Cruz assembly backed a statute under which the region would keep two-thirds of its tax revenues on Thursday.
Will Bolivia’s splits widen?
Three other regions - Tarija, Beni and Pando - are planning similar declarations at rallies on Saturday. Once the autonomy charters are declared, they will be put to the local populations for approval.Four hundred extra police have been sent to Santa Cruz, and the army has been told to prepare to protect public buildings.
The moves towards autonomy come after an assembly dominated by supporters of President Evo Morales adopted the new national charter article by article last weekend.
It must still be put to a national referendum.
Mr Morales made rewriting the constitution a key part of his reform agenda to give the indigenous majority greater political power, but the issue has deepened regional and ethnic divisions in the country.
Low-lying Santa Cruz is the most prosperous part of South America’s poorest country, having major agricultural businesses and much of Bolivia’s oil and gas wealth.
Pro-autonomy supporters object to the new constitution, which would allow consecutive five-year presidential terms, increase indigenous rights and redistribute wealth to the poorer highland areas of Bolivia.
On Thursday, Mr Morales called for dialogue, but warned that the unity of Bolivia was inviolable.
“The unity of the country is untouchable, it is not up for discussion. There is no referendum to be held on the country’s unity,” Mr Morales said.
There were frequent demonstrations - both for and against - during the debate over constitutional reforms, with protests sometimes turning violent.
Four Bolivian regions declare autonomy from government
The natural-gas-rich districts seek to distance themselves from Bolivia’s constitutionConstitution calls for heavier taxes on the regions to help finance social programs
AP: “We won’t permit Bolivia to be divided,” President Evo Morales warns
Pro-Morales groups: Richer regions want to control Bolivia’s natural resources
(CNN) — Tensions were rising in Bolivia on Saturday as members of the country’s four highest natural gas-producing regions declared autonomy from the central government.Ruben Costas, center, governor of Santa Cruz, celebrates as the Bolivian region declares autonomy Saturday.
1 of 2 Thousands waved the Santa Cruz region’s green-and-white flags in the streets as council members of the Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando districts made the public announcement.
The officials displayed a green-bound document containing a set of statutes paving the way to a permanent separation from the Bolivian government.
Council representatives vowed to legitimize the so-called autonomy statutes through a referendum that would legally separate the natural-gas rich districts from President Evo Morales’ government.
The move also aims to separate the states from Bolivia’s new constitution, which calls for, among other things, a heavier taxation on the four regions to help finance more social programs.
“The statutes will be ratified,” said Oscar Ortiz, Santa Cruz senator. “With a public referendum, the people of our region will legitimize their will.”
About 35 percent of Bolivia’s 9.5 million people live in the four states, according to The Associated Press.
South America launches own bank
In the meantime, Bolivian network ATV showed what appeared to be armed, pro-government protesters creating blockades around the town of Yapacani, on the outskirts of Santa Cruz.
Some indigenous pro-Morales groups claim Bolivia’s richer, white-ruled Eastern regions want to control the country’s natural resources. Bolivia has South America’s second-largest natural gas reserves, behind Venezuela. Most of it is produced in the Eastern regions. Watch Bolivian leader speak out »
In the capital city La Paz on Saturday, Morales addressed thousands of flag-waving supporters in the Plaza Murillo, defending the new constitution and lashing out against what he called the racist policies of Bolivia’s elite.
“They must give back the money they took from us,” he told a cheering crowd, which included members of the Quechua and Aymara tribes. “We will retroactively investigate all the big fortunes, and the corrupt are now trembling with fear.”
Morales also cautioned those who he said want a “a division, a coup d’etat,” the AP reported.
“We won’t permit Bolivia to be divided,” he warned.
Morales — who belongs to the Aymara indigenous group — nationalized the country’s oil and natural gas reserves when he took power in 2006, creating what became known as the “gas wars.”
Running on a platform of redistribution of wealth among Bolivia’s poor, Morales has defied countries such as Brazil and the United States for the exploration of Bolivia’s natural reserves.
He has also protested the country’s racial divide.
“Bolivia is a nation among nations,” he said Saturday, referring to the diversity of Indian nations whose traditions date back centuries.
“We are not a country of blue-eyed, green-eyed folks only. It’s a plurinational country made of dark-skinned and white-skinned. This new constitution will unite us.” E-mail to a friend