Morales wins referendum but opposition hits back

Published by The Real News Network

Produced by Zaa Nkweta

ZAA NKWETA (VOICEOVER): Bolivian President Evo Morales accused government opponents on Wednesday of forcing the poor to strike, as he spoke in response to general strikes in five provincial capitals this week.

EVO MORALES, BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): … the people that have a lot of money have called for strikes, they are forcing the poor to strike, but those people that have a lot of money are not striking, their industries and factories do not stop.

NKWETA: The fuel strikes, halfhearted in their efforts, were met with no show of force by the Morales government. The strikes come on the heels of a recall referendum called by Morales to counter an illegal referendum by the wealthy lowland provinces, the Media Luna region, who are pushing for regional autonomy. According to a report from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “These autonomy statutes would grant each prefecture control of the establishment and implementation of taxation systems, the distribution of land, and in some cases, the control of all police and military assignments in their localities. Also at stake is revenue from the taxation and exploitation of hydrocarbon resources.

FORREST HYLTON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: What they want is they want the central government to give them $166 million, which they say are taxes on hydrocarbons that are owed to them. Now, there’s been a massive increase in government revenue. Between 2004 and 2007, there was an increase of $1.3 billion. In Bolivia this is huge money. And public investment in 2005 went from $629 million to $1.1 billion. So the basic issue comes down to who is going to get the money from the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources, and these autonomists want to make sure that they get the money, and they’re going to carry out their completely illegal agenda, regardless of whether Evo wants to dialog with them or not.

NKWETA: The Morales government won the referendum with an increase in the percentage of votes from almost 64 percent to 68 percent. However, this victory is not as clearcut as it sounds.

HYLTON: It’s very, very curious to see such an overwhelming victory for the central government. Even in the bastions of right-wing reaction, Morales did extremely well. And yet, for reasons that are not clear to anybody, they seem unable to translate that mandate into effective power.

NKWETA: The Morales government has been largely conciliatory in its approach, with no show of force in response to autonomous challenges.

MORALES: They (the opposition) talk about taking over institutions. They try to take over institutions. That is practically a civil coup to the Bolivian state. I congratulate the Bolivian institutions that no longer answer to the interests of those looking for a coup, as in past decades.

HYLTON: Costas, the fellow in Santa Cruz who is really leading the opposition, the followers of Costas tried to take over the police command in Santa Cruz and very nearly succeeded, and did not face any sort of punishment from the federal government in response. The one headline said, “Evo tries to reconcile while Costas tries to confront,” and that’s basically been the case so far. The police are furious at the fact that Costas and his, you know, young thugs attacked a police command and the police were prevented from responding. So the police are furious at Morales, because Morales is holding them in check. But for whatever reason, you know, the government has proven very reluctant to employ the security forces at its disposal. And it must be stressed that with a mandate of 68 percent, the government has a legitimate monopoly on the use of force. But for reasons that are mysterious to almost everybody, it is afraid to use that monopoly of force.