[News] Bolivia: Morales Enacts New Constitution in El Alto
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 9 17:49:34 EST 2009
Bolivia: Morales Enacts New Constitution in El Alto
Written by Benjamin Dangl
Saturday, 07 February 2009
Fog covered El Alto, Bolivia on Saturday morning
as social movements from around the country
marched into the city to mark the official
passage of Bolivias new constitution. "This is
the second independence, the true liberation of
Bolivia," Bolivian President Evo Morales said as
he signed the new constitution.
The new constitution was approved by 61.43% of
voters in a national referendum on January 25th.
Among many other changes, the document empowers
Bolivia's indigenous and Afro-Bolivian
communities, establishes broader access to basic
services, education and healthcare, limits the
size of large land purchases, expands the role of
the state in the management of natural resources
and the economy and prohibits the existence US military bases on Bolivian soil.
Wilfredo, a Movement Toward Socialism (MAS, the
political party of Morales) activist, attended
the event in El Alto with his daughter Betty on
his shoulders. He said "I am a MAS fanatic, its
in my blood. It is very important that this event
is happening in El Alto, because during the Gas
War in 2003 it was El Alto that kicked out
[President] Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and brought
about this process. Now change will even come to Santa Cruz!"
El Alto, a rapidly growing city outside of La
Paz, has been the site of numerous revolts in
recent years, revolts which set in stone many
demands including the nationalization of gas
and the re-writing of the constitution that
become major platforms of the MAS. El Alto was
also the base for the 1781 siege of
Spanish-controlled La Paz led by indigenous rebel
Tupac Katari. Morales spoke at length of Kataris
legacy, describing the passage of the new
constitution as the continuation of a struggle
sparked in part by Katari in his fight for indigenous liberation.
"After 500 years of rebellion against invasions,
against permanent looting, after more than 180
years of resistance against the colonial state,
after 20 years of permanent struggle against the
neoliberal model, today, 7th of February of 2009,
a new Bolivia is born," Morales said, his voice echoing across the altiplano.
Bolivian flag-colored kites flew in the sky,
countless fireworks shot off from rooftops, some
of them colliding in the air, and exploding onto
neighboring buildings. Social organizations
banners were draped from balconies around the neighborhood.
Daniel Quiroga, a union member of the Regional
Workers Center who was born in El Alto, said "I
support the constitution because I am handicapped
and this new constitution supports handicapped
people. The constitution will bring about change
in Bolivia without corruption. This is why I voted for it."
"For the first time in the history of Latin
America, and in the world, basic services, water,
electricity, telephone are now a human right,
they will be a public service not a private
business," Morales said in his speech. When he
announced that the new constitution prohibits
foreign military bases on Bolivian soil, the crowd went wild.
Guatemalan indigenous rights activist Rigoberta
Menchu, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace prize, was
in attendance. Regarding Bolivias new
constitution, Menchu said, "It is something that
will open a new era of struggle for the people of this continent."
Benjamin Dangl is the author of
Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements
in Bolivia (AK Press). Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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