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Issue 574, 5 October 2007 - All unions should back the Greens

Millions resist as Bolivian elites target Morales

MASSIVE PROTESTS in defence of constitutional reform rocked Bolivia in August as rich elites continued with their attempts to undermine the democratically elected government of Evo Morales.

Evo Morales was elected in January 2006 as Bolivia's first Indigenous President, ending 500 years of rule by elites and bringing hope that the oppression and colonisation was a thing of the past.

Over the last 18 months, Evo and his MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) government has semi-nationalised the vast gas resources, introduced a nation wide literacy program and formed the Constitutional Assembly, a body which has been elected and mandated with the job of rewriting the state constitution.

In the past four months the Assembly has been derailed by the elite business lobby who have played on a century old regional struggle for the title of capital of Bolivia (since the late 1800s Sucre and La Paz have shared the title).

These rich elites have so-called "popular support" through the Comit� Civicos. These are unelected bodies of business leaders who have systematically called general (bosses) strikes and been openly opposing Evo's government with the claim that his administration is undemocratic.

They are also using a group called "Juvenile Cruzenistas"-a fascist, thug arm of the comites. Based in Santa Cruz, they have been harrasing, beating up and threatening Indigenous leaders.

They were shipped to Cochabamba on January 11, 2007 when the city exploded in an afternoon of racist violence.

The battle in the two cities has been fierce. Sucre was shut down for two weeks in early August due to massive protests and violence as the Sucre�os took to the street demanding that the issue be discussed by the Assembly.

In July, two million people took to the streets of La Paz to defend their right as the capital.

The Assembly refused to put it on the agenda as they argued that it was not worth wasting time over. It was argued that there are hundreds of other more important issues such as land andcontrol over natural resources that should be discussed first.

The Assembly has been postponed for one month due to the lack of protection for the delegates. Discussions about re-opening the congress are continuing.

But the opposition has pushed the capital issue, using its control of the media and communications to make it the biggest issue of the constitution, guaranteeing the derailment of the Assembly process.

The real issue here is not which city should have the rightful title of capital; it is the rewriting of the Constitution that would have Indigenous people equal to the white, Spanish descendants.

It is about the elites trying to close the process and not allowing the electeddelegates of the Assembly do their job and create a new constitution for a new Bolivia.

It is part racism, part protection of the elites' economic and land interests, which have been systematically stolen over the last 500 years from the majority of the Indigenous people.

Bolivia is over 50 per cent Indigenous and is the poorest country in South America.

Many Indigenous people live in poverty with no rights over land titles and little access to education and work opportunities.Bolivia is in a grave position.

As the MAS government pushes slowly towards a new constitution, the rich elite and the foreign business and governments interests are united in opposition against any change.

It seems that the battle for future of Bolivia could be fought out in the streets. Under the globalised capitalist system, Evo's push towards a new, inclusive Bolivia must be defended.

By Paula Pfoeffer In Cochabama, Bolivia