Morales hails 'equality' referendum

Voters expected to back constitutional changes giving indigenous people more power.

    Morales said the constitutional changes would give all Bolivians "equal opportunities" [AFP]

    Morales won 67 per cent of the vote in a recall referendum in August 2008.

    "Evo Morales will win, because he is a good president and he is helping children and old people. So we will vote 'yes'," Norita Manami, a Morales supporter, said.

    State control

    The proposals include a larger state role in the economy, grants of self-rule to 36 distinct indigenous "nations" and a December general election, in which Morales could run for another five-year term.

    Key proposals

    Elections: Presidents would be allowed two consecutives five-year terms
    Indigenous rights: Recognises self-determination of 36 'nations' and sets aside seats in Congress
    Natural resources:
    State control for all gas, oil and mineral reserves
    Local autonomy: Authorises state assemblies that control local issues and self-rule for indigenous groups on traditional lands
    Justice: High court judges to be elected rather than appointed
    Equality: Prohibits discrimination on sexual orientation and guarantees freedom of religion

    Voters will also decide whether future land ownership should be capped at 5,000 or 10,000 hectares. The state could seize land that does not perform a "social function" or was fraudulently obtained.

    But despite strong support for Morales, the vote could prove divisive with the country split along geographic, racial and class lines.

    The opposition, led by state governors in the more prosperous east, has objected to the proposed changes.

    Many critics have accused Morales of harming the economy through the nationalisation of a number of businesses.

    "This is a false referendum, it does not have the participation nor the support of half of the Bolivian people. We people from the east [the lowlands of Bolivia] don't expect anything good from it," Percy Ruiz, an opponent of Morales, said.

    However, it allowed the referendum to go ahead after Morales agreed to stand for only one additional term and grant greater autonomy to the regions.

    Nearly four million Bolivians are registered to vote in a referendum which is to be monitored by international observers.

    SOURCE: Agencies


     How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

    Ninety-nine years since Balfour's "promise", Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.

    Afghan asylum seekers resort to sex work in Athens

    Afghan asylum seekers resort to sex work in Athens

    In the rundown Pedion Areos Park, older men walk slowly by young asylum seekers before agreeing on a price for sex.

    Profile: Osama bin Laden

    Profile: Osama bin Laden

    The story of a most-wanted fugitive and billionaire.