[Marxism] Bolivia Faces Tough Task of Interpreting Referendum

Fred Fuentes fuentf01 at tartarus.uwa.edu.au
Tue Jul 20 08:51:21 MDT 2004

I will try and post some thoughts on the outcome on the referendum but i
think there is some interesting anaylsis in this article
La lucha continua

Bolivia Faces Tough Task of Interpreting Referendum
Mon Jul 19, 2004 09:30 AM ET
By Alistair Scrutton
LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivians faced the unwieldy task on Monday of
turning their historic referendum over the Andean nation's natural gas
reserves into real policies to tighten state control over the industry.
The referendum, seen also as a vote of confidence in President Carlos Mesa,
essentially asked Bolivians if they wanted to increase state participation in
the impoverished nation's energy industry and export the gas abroad.
Mesa, who was installed nine months ago after his predecessor was kicked out
by an Indian revolt, declared victory in the referendum late on Sunday, saying
the country had backed each of his five proposals.
Early results appeared to support his claim, with the National Electoral
Court's Web site (http://www.cne.org.bo) showing a majority of Bolivians in
support of his proposals with 12 percent of the voting stations counted early
Unofficial counts by state and private television also showed Mesa had come
out ahead in what analysts say is a vote that will lend his government
legitimacy in a country increasingly divided between the rich elite and the
millions of poor Indians who make up the majority of its 8 million people.
But political analysts say the referendum's questions have been phrased so
ambiguously that interpreting them and enacting legislation presents another
challenge for the 50-year-old leader.
Mesa has no formal political support in a Congress known for its internal
"This is undoubtedly a victory for Mesa. But the government has only overcome
its first obstacle. Now these referendum proposals must go to Congress and
that will be another battle. The difficulties may have just begun," said Jorge
Lazarte, a political analyst.
Leading newspaper La Razon's editorial Monday said "the mother of all battles
will be fought from today onwards" as Congress and communal leaders interpret
the citizens' votes.
Evo Morales, the influential leader of the coca leaf farmers who supports
Mesa, told local radio Monday his party will "continue to fight until the
hydrocarbons are under the property and absolute control of the Bolivian
Fury at a $5 billion plan to export gas via Chile, Bolivia's historical enemy,
lay behind a siege of the capital by Indian groups in October in which dozens
of protesters were killed by troops. The violence led to the ouster of pro-
Washington President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.
Mesa, his replacement, called the referendum to appease Indians, who made
nationalization a rallying cry of October's revolt. He turned the election
into a vote of confidence.
Defeat in the referendum would have forced him from office and plunged
Bolivia, with a history of coups and rebellions, into civil unrest.
Militant Indian leaders had called on Bolivians to boycott the vote and many
feared violence around polling stations. But voting was mostly peaceful.
The referendum was seen as the best of the worst by foreign investors, given
that a "No" vote would have plunged Bolivia into chaos. Foreign companies will
have to deal with stronger state controls and higher taxes.
Oil companies with operations in Bolivia include Brazil's Petrobras, Spain's
Repsol, France's Total, and Britain's BG and BP .
The vote may come as a relief to Washington, which feared that more unrest in
Bolivia, the world's third-largest source of coca leaf used to make cocaine,
could lead to more drug smuggling from an Andean region where there is growing
indigenous anger at "gringo imperialism."
The vote could also send a political signal across Latin America, where
democratic leaders from Argentina to Peru face voter backlash after a decade
of market reforms that many argue have benefited foreign firms and the rich.

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