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Six of Bolivia's richest provinces on 48 hours protest strike

Tuesday, November 27th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Pte. Morales is going through his worst moment since taken office Pte. Morales is going through his worst moment since taken office

Six of Bolivia's nine provinces, which hold 80% of the country's wealth, have called a 48 hours general strike for Wednesday in protest at a new draft constitution.

The strike call was announced in the oil and farm rich Santa Cruz region together with the provinces of Tarija, Pando, Beni, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas has emerged as the great leader of the opponent provinces. Precisely in the main city of Chuquisaca, Sucre at least five people died, including a policeman lynched by a mob, and hundreds were injured over the weekend after violent protests broke out against the reforms. President Evo Morales says the new charter is part of a democratic revolution but opponents say the proposed reforms concentrate power. The strike is also geared to protest a recent decision from the Bolivian government to take hydrocarbons' taxes resources from the provinces and invest them in a pensions' scheme for the destitute elderly. The UN and the US are among those calling for calm and refraining from violence. In Sucre, people have begun clearing up after three days of violent unrest and rioting. Residents' groups were patrolling the streets after police fled their posts. The protests erupted after a special assembly meeting at an army-run high school on the outskirts of Sucre approved the broad outlines of the draft constitution. In the absence of opposition delegates, who boycotted the session, the assembly voted by a simple majority to approve all of President Morales's draft proposals. The final draft will be put to a national referendum but no date has yet been set. The president has made rewriting the constitution a key part of his reform agenda to give the indigenous majority greater political power but the issue has deepened regional and ethnic divisions in the country. On Monday, Mr Morales took to the streets and led a massive rally in La Paz in support of the proposed changes. Since Morales took office in January 2006, the first indigenous president in the country's history, the provinces of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando which concentrate the country's natural gas and agro-business wealth, have been demanding more flexible autonomy models with greater political weight and more control over their resources. During a political rally in La Paz in support of the President and the constitutional review, Morales said that the new charter "will put an end to holdings of unfarmed land, although it also respects private property, communal land and collective and non public property".

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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