Four provinces chose autonomy today in Bolivia.
President Evo Morales has divided the country with his new constitution.
Santa Cruz state governor Ruben Costas waves a flag during a rally to celebrate the approval of an autonomic statute for the state in Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007, accompanied by supporters. Under this statute the state would hold on to nearly two-thirds of the tax revenues it currently turns over to central authorities, but it would still have to undergo a popular referendum to gain legitimacy. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Earlier this year I was interviewing former Bolivian Congressman Jose Brechner on the situation in Bolivia. Jose explained that all of the conditions were ripe for civil war.
It looks like he may be correct.
The Country of Bolivia is split tonight. President Evo Morales has successfully divided the nation.
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** Publius Pundit is following the crisis and reported this on Morales:
Undeterred by the failure of his big brother Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to consolidate dictatorship, Bolivian madman Evo Morales is pressing ahead with his own version of a plan to do the same, placing the nation on the brink of civil war.
The governor of Santa Cruz declared autonomy today at a massive rally against the Morales goverment.
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.
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.”
Evo Morales promised to send in the military if the provinces declared autonomy.
This could get very ugly.
Residents celebrate during a town council in Santa Cruz, December 15, 2007. Four Bolivian provinces forged ahead with plans for regional autonomy on Saturday in a challenge to President Evo Morales that has raised fears of political turmoil in South America’s poorest country. Led by the economic hub of Santa Cruz, the provinces bitterly oppose the new constitution and are making separate declarations of autonomy. (REUTERS/Carlos Hugo Vaca)
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It probably didn’t help the situation that Morales slipped language into the constitution after it was voted on.
Both sides held massive protests today in Bolivia.
The AP reported this on the growing crisi:
Huge crowds seeking autonomy for eastern Bolivia rallied against leftist President Evo Morales, as tens of thousands marched to support him in the capital, La Paz.
The Governors in the eastern lowland and energy-rich states of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando all declared greater self-rule at celebratory rallies yesterday, a move strongly opposed by Morales, who ordered extra police deployed to the region.
The four rebel provinces, out of the nine that make up Bolivia, account for around two-thirds of the total gross domestic product and are home to a more than a third of the country’s population.
Morales warned that the moves towards autonomy were illegal, and that the army would guarantee Bolivia’s territorial integrity.