Friday, January 22, 2010

Bolivia's president, has been sworn-in for a second term

Morales sworn-in for second term

Bolivian Indians complained of discrimination by a minority government until Morales was elected [AFP]

Evo Morales, Bolivia's president, has been sworn-in for a second term, vowing to further tighten state control over South America's poorest economy and develop some of the world's largest lithium reserves.
Morales, an Aymara Indian and Bolivia's first indigenous president, won a sweeping re-election victory in December due to broad support from the poor Indian majority.
"Comrades, democracy has been consolidated ... the colonial state has died and the multicultural state has been born," Morales said in his inauguration speech in the capital of La Paz on Friday.
After winning a majority in both houses of congress, the ruling party can now call for referendums to amend the constitution, and will control judicial appointments, which leaves other parties with little power to oppose Morales.
In his inauguration speech, Morales promised to launch state-run paper, cement, dairy and drug companies and develop iron and lithium industries to help Bolivia export value-added products instead of raw materials.
Call for investors
Bolivia has huge deposits of lithium but does not exploit the metal.
"We need a lot of money to industrialise lithium ... we're ready to negotiate [with foreign investors] to guarantee investments," Morales said.
Foreign investors became wary after the president's energy industry nationalisations in 2006, which increased taxes on foreign companies.
Morales said Bolivia needed "partners but not patrons."
Bolivia is South America's top exporter of natural gas, but Morales has failed to attract investment to increase output and corruption has hampered efforts by the state-run energy company to develop projects to produce natural-gas derivatives.
After nationalising energy, mining and telecommunication companies the Bolivian state controls 28 per cent of the economy, increased from about 8 per cent before Morales became president.
The government is targeting 40 per cent state control over the economy, mainly by launching more state companies.
His inauguration was attended by several South American presidents, including Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, and Rafael Correa, Ecuador's leader.
Bolivian Indians make up around 60 per cent of the population and have long complained of discrimination by a mixed-raced minority that had a stronghold on politics until Morales first became president in January 2006.

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