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December 16, 2007
Bolivia in Crisis as Many Resist Socialism
Four of the richest regions in Bolivia are set to declare their autonomy from the national government of President Evo Morales thanks to a new constitution that would massively increase taxes on the regions in order to pay for social programs:
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. Morales has mobilized the army and intends to enforce national soveriegnty by whatever means necessary:
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.
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. The revolting districts seem quite serious about their plans to split from the national government so a confrontation of some kind would seem inevitable.
"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."