Monday, June 23, 2008

And Tarija makes 4

Now four Bolivian provinces have passed an "autonomy referendum", and the latest to do so, Tarija, holds the great majority of Bolivia's natural gas deposits (which is the country's major export). It is not totally clear exactly what these referenda mean, though the first one in Santa Cruz and this fourth one passed overwhelmingly, but to me the message is that the relatively wealthy and non-indigenous lowland part of the country is not going to go along with Evo Morales and his Andean supporters attempt to re-write the constitution and govern the country in a different way. The implicit threat is that these rich provinces will withhold tax revenues from the central government.

Morales has also agreed to stand for recall in an election this August. Despite his troubles in the Eastern provinces, he is likely to avoid recall. However, as this LA Times article points out, simply holding the election significantly delays any possible vote on Morales' new constitution, which if approved would allow him to run for re-election and likely mandate land re-distribution in the Eastern provinces.

All this political infighting may well simply be the old guard's attempt to ride out Morales' term without losing their current standing/status/wealth while hoping for better treatment from the next president. Here is a previous KPC post on delaying tactics for Evo's new constitution.