Bolivian President Carlos Mesa has announced a referendum will be held on March 28 to decide the future of the country's vast natural gas reserves, an issue which led to the resignation of his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada.
Mesa made the announcement in a televised address late Sunday, eight weeks after massive protests against plans to sell the gas to the United States forced Sanchez de Losada from office.
More than 70 people died in the demonstrations by Bolivians angered at the scheme to export the gas. Most of the deaths occurred in clashes between the protesters and the security forces.
The president promised the referendum in his first public comments after assuming the office in October.
In his speech on Sunday, Mesa said the government would mount a campaign in inform the populace about the referendum, hook up 200,000 homes to receive natural gas and present to Congress a proposal to overhaul the current Hydrocarbons Law.
The president said he would boost taxes on petroleum companies extracting the gas, annul the system which ties gas prices to the international market and improve the state petroleum company's capacity to take part in gas projects.