Hemisphere Focus: The Politics of Confrontation in Bolivia
May 12, 2008
The May 4 referendum in Bolivia's Santa Cruz region to approve an autonomy statute highlights the deep lack of consensus that permeates Bolivian politics and society. Under its terms, the statute establishes Santa Cruz as an “autonomous department” within Bolivia with many of the rights and privileges normally reserved for a national government. The referendum, denounced by President Evo Morales and his supporters as illegitimate and unconstitutional, in fact tracks closely with the overall course of Bolivian politics during the last five years, leading to a situation in which the exercise of political power and the rule of law are often at odds. If this tendency is not reversed, Bolivia’s already weak social, regional, ethnic, and political fabric will fray.