Monday, May 05, 2008

Bolivian right-wing holds vote on regional autonomy, by Gloria La Riva

Illegal referendum a first step toward secession

A grave political crisis is looming as a secessionist referendum takes place in Bolivia.

Bolivia's secessionist departments Bolivia's secessionist department's (highlighted) hold much of the country'swealth.

The separatist movement is headed by ultra-right forces, which organized the illegal and unconstitutional vote in the eastern department (state) of Santa Cruz, to declare its autonomy. Beni, Pando and Tarija—also departments in the eastern region known as the "Media Luna" (half moon)—will hold similar referenda in coming weeks.

The goal of the referendum is two-fold. First, it seeks to put political and economic control of the country’s considerable oil and natural gas wealth in the hands of the separatist elements within the Bolivian bourgeoisie. Secondly, it seeks the overthrow of the government of Evo Morales, which has emphasized the empowerment of the historically oppressed, majority Indigenous population and has pursued the nationalization of the country’s resources.

In a May 1 statement, Fidel Castro warned that right-wing elements in the Bolivian military might be planning an outright overthrow of Morales.

The Organization of American States held two emergency meetings, at which Bolivia’s foreign minister David Choquehuanca denounced the Media Luna governors for illegally dividing the country. Since Bolivia achieved independence from Spain in 1825, it has seen more than 200 coup d’états—half of all the coups in Latin American history.

At an urgent meeting of "In Defense of Humanity" network held on April 12 and 13 in Venezuela, prominent anti-imperialist intellectuals and artists from Latin America and the United States discussed a plan of action to defend the Bolivian government against the impending referendum.

The meeting produced a statement of solidarity denouncing the right-wing secessionist efforts. Its text follows below:

"The Conspiracy to Divide Bolivia Must Be Denounced

"The process of changes in favor of the Bolivian majority is at risk of being brutally restrained. The rise to power of an Indigenous president with unprecedented support in that country and his programs of popular benefits and recovery of the natural resources have had to face the conspiracies of the oligarchy and United States interference from the very beginning.

"In recent days, the increase in conspiracy has reached its climax. The subversive and unconstitutional actions of the oligarchic groups to try to divide the Bolivian nation reflect the racist and elitist minds of these sectors and constitute a very dangerous precedent not only for the country’s integrity, but for other countries in our region.

"History shows with ample eloquence the terrible consequences that the divisionary and separatist processes supported and induced by foreign interests have had for humanity.

"Faced with this situation, the signers below would like to express their support for the government of Evo Morales Ayma, for his policies for change and for the sovereign constituent process of the Bolivian people. At the same time we reject the so-called Santa Cruz Autonomy Statute due to its unconstitutionality and the attempt against the unity of a nation of our America."

Hundreds of prominent individuals signed, including: former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Nobel Prize recipients Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Rigoberta Menchú; Professor Noam Chomsky; authors Eduardo Galeano, Ignacio Ramonet and Howard Zinn; liberation theologian Frei Betto; Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez; ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) national coordinator Brian Becker; and Puerto Rican independence fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda.

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