Bolivia: Evo Morales on hunger strike to press election law

Bolivia’s Congress April 9 approved the “overall content” of an electoral law—hours after President Evo Morales went on hunger strike to protest efforts by opposition lawmakers to block the bill. Lawmakers must still vote on the details of the election reform law, which is seen helping the left-wing president in a general election in December by assigning more seats to poor, rural areas where he is popular. Morales remains on hunger strike.

“Faced with the negligence of a bunch of neoliberal lawmakers, we have no choice but to take this step,” Morales told reporters in defense of his hunger strike. “They don’t want to pass a law that guarantees the implementation of the constitution.”

Lawmakers traded insults during a heated debate and some opposition members called Morales government “totalitarian.” However, a majority eventually voted to approve the general outline of the law. Congress still has to vote on how many seats will be reserved for minority indigenous groups in the legislature, whether or not the electoral register will be updated before the poll and if Bolivian expatriates will be allowed to vote.

Bolivia’s new constitution calls for Congress to approve an electoral law ratifying Dec. 6 as the date for a general election. The opposition had rejected the bill because it gives 14 seats to minority indigenous groups which, they say, amounts to handing them to Morales. They also demand a new electoral register, asserting that the current census is unreliable.

Across the landlocked country, hundreds of members of indigenous groups and trade unions joined the hunger strike in support of Morales. Cuba’s former president, Fidel Castro, also telephoned Morales to express his support for the hunger strike. Castro also said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is currently visiting Cuba, asked him to pass on his “complete solidarity” with Morales. (Radio Netherlands, April 11; Reuters, April 9)

See our last post on Bolivia.

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  1. Evo ends hunger strike
    President Evo Morales ended a hunger strike April 14 after Congress approved a measure setting rules for general elections this year. Morales began fasting last week to protest delays in voting on the measure, which guarantees some representation for indigenous groups in Congress and could allow Gran Chaco, a gas-rich area, to seek administrative autonomy. The measure also opens the way for him to run for re-election. (NYT, April 14)