morales tones down constitution to secure his re-election

Bolivia’s President makes a deal with the parliamentary right-wing and seals the ratification of a bill calling a referendum on the new Constitution. The far-right, the fascist governors and the ‘hardest’ oligarchs, who control half the country, are preparing resistance and civil disobedience.

La Paz, October 21st 2008 – translated from Econoticias Bolivia

Early this Tuesday evening president Evo Morales could boast of achieving half of his objectives after the Bolivian Congress voted for the staging of a referendum in three months’ time to ratify his new State Political Constitution, re-formulated at the eleventh hour with right wing MPs, who agreed to make legal the re-election of the president, in exchange for eliminating from the constitution’s text all reforms they considered radical.

Having promulgated the bill, after two days when indigenous people and peasants encircled the Congress, Morales now faces the enormous challenge of enforcing the law on January 25th 2009 in the east and in the valleys, which are controlled by fascist forces and the ‘hardest’ oligarchs, who have already warned that they will not respect either the Parliament’s or Morales’s decisions.


The new constitution – after more than 150 of the 400 articles designed by the Constituent Assembly have been altered – leaves the enormous agricultural estates untouched, defends major private property and foreign investment, and keeps in place almost all the privileges of the landowners and oligarchs who exploit natural resources without limit.

The constitutional text puts forward the deepening and development of Andean capitalism and respect for formal democracy, opening the way for provincial autonomy to be recognised for the sake of national unity.

The new constitutional text recognises the rights of indigenous peoples, and would allow Morales to be re-elected one further time, but not indefinitely, as the forces of the right had feared.

In spite of this, the most radical elements in the oligarchy and the fascist bands who continue to control half the nation’s territory (Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Chuquisaca) expect rejection of the referendum and have announced that in these regions the new bill will not be respected.


The new constitutional text establishes that “the provinces that opted for regional autonomy in the July 2nd 2006 referendum will have to adapt their Statutes of Autonomy to this Constitution within a maximum period of six months.

With this measure, he pretends that the illegal and unconstitutional Statutes ratified in the separatist provinces can be adapted to the new bill. This, however, will not satisfy the secessionists. According to the right-wing ‘civic’ leader Juan Carlos Urenda, who drew up the Santa Cruz Statute, the new article in the Constitution would mean the tacit abandonment of his Statutes, which he would not tolerate.


Another key issue is the size of agricultural holdings. Even if in the referendum we will still vote on whether to limit the maximum agricultural holding to 5,000 or 10,000 hectares, another article is included which qualifies this: the 5,000 or 10,000 hectare limit will only apply to property registered after the putting-in-place of the new Constitution, if a ‘Yes’ vote wins in the 25th January 2009 plebiscite.

According to the Rural Development Minister Carlos Romero, this means that the properties currently being reorganised will be regulated by the current laws, meaning that, as long as the estates are productive, there will be no limit to their size and they will not be taken back or expropriated. This is to the great relief of the 100 clans who own the land and big business in the east of the country and in the valleys. They control more than 25 million hectares, five times more than two million peasants who barely subsist in the valleys and in the Altiplano working on smallholdings ruined by over-farming and desertification.


Upon the passing of the bill by Congress, and its later promulgation by president Morales, the massive indigenous, peasant and trade union “long march” on La Paz converted itself into a real popular festival. This also happened, although on a smaller scale, in other cities of the Altiplano and in rural areas.

In the cities in the east and in parts of the valleys, the situation was different. In the city of Santa Cruz, the bastion of the oligarchy and the fascists, an assembly held by the influential Civic Committee warned of resistance and civil disobedience.

The forces of the oligarchy and the fascists are debating at least three courses of action to block Morales’s new referendum.

One of these is a legal challenge before the Constitutional Tribunal over the way in which the new referendum call was ratified, considering it illegal given the pressure social movements put on the Congress.

Another would be the action already taking place in the regional Electoral Courts, controlled by the oligarchy and by fascists, questioning the reliability of the electoral register. These Courts have already announced that they will not stage an election before an audit and cleaning-up of the electoral register, which in reality would mean stopping a vote any time soon.

The third option being considered by the right-wing governors and oligarchic forces is active resistance to the referendum, using shock troops and the fascist bands who hold absolute control of four of Bolivia’s ten biggest cities, where even President Morales is unable to venture.

After Congress passed the bill calling for a referendum on the new Constitution, the right-wing governors and the forces of the oligarchy are already working to stop it taking place. In La Paz, however, President Morales and the peasant and indigenous organisations continue celebrating their victory, trusting in the idea that laws and votes will suffice to defeat fascist barbarism.