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Reforms, or what is really at stake in the Bolivian ballot on Sunday

Translated Monday 11 August 2008, by Henry Crapo

Proclaiming equality among communities and between men and women, Evo Morales is fiercely fought by the right wing and the oligarchy.

For the first time in the history of Bolivia, the highest officers of the state: the president, the vice-president and the prefects (regional governors) place their positions in the balance, this 10th of August, in a revocatory referendum. On the outcome of these consultations depends the pursuit of reforms engaged by Evo Morales, three years after the electoral victory that constituted a veritable rupture in a land until then marked by the racist heritage of colonialism.

If the referendum fails, it is the neo-liberal and reactionary right, in the form of the Podemos coalition, that will take back their control of the reins of government.

According to recent surveys, Evo Morales and his vice-president Alavaro Garcia Linera, have no need to be worried. Even more so, since the percentage of negative votes required for revocation is 53.7%, the score obtained by Evo Morales in the 2005 presidential election.

In the event of possible revocation of prefects, the authorities will name their replacements before any departmental elections are held.

In La Paz, the people hope that the referendum will bring some health to a poisonous political and institutional climate. The determined opposition to the government, organized by the MAS (Movement toward Socialism) these past three years, has retarded the application of reforms and the creation of a new constitution. It ferociously polarizes political life. Acts of violence are so numerous that the general secretary of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, made known his "profound preoccupation" on the eve of the referendum.

Is a return to normality possible? This is exactly what is in question these next few days. Especially since the key question of the Bolivian crisis, the transformational reforms and the rhythm of their application, will continue to be pointedly posed.

There is also no reason that the conglomerate of oppositional forces (the right wing, big land owners, and heads of industry), determined to preserve their self-proclaimed financial privileges, will change their strategy. It was just so, reckoning by that very social fracture, that there were held four illegal referenda for autonomy of regions in the east of the country, precisely where its principal economic resources are located.

True to their racist traditions, the whites and rich mixed-race minority, in their view, should not spend a penny on the hordes of Indians. And this, starting with a refusal to fund the president and his government, which have the support of the social organisms, themselves animated by a desire to bring about an equitable distribution of wealth.

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