[News] Bolivia: Morales Enacts New Constitution in El Alto

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Mon Feb 9 17:49:34 EST 2009


Bolivia: Morales Enacts New Constitution in El Alto
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1706/1/

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 Bolivia’s 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, it’s 
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 Katari’s 
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 Bolivia’s 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 
<http://www.akpress.org/2007/items/priceoffireakpress>The 
Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements 
in Bolivia (AK Press). Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com

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