Bolivia inaugurates indigenous autonomy

Bolivian President Evo Morales was sworn in for a second five-year term on Jan. 22, pledging to open a new era for indigenous peoples in his nation. The formal swearing-in at the capital La Paz was preceded a day earlier by a traditional indigenous ceremony at the ancient Kalasasaya temple in the ruined pre-Inca city of Tiwanaku. (RIA-Novosti, Jan. 22)

At the opening of the Tiwanaku ceremony, Morales stood at the Gate of the Sun of the Kalasasaya Temple, where he received staffs from the hands of two children, consecrating him as Apu Mallku (spiritual leader) of the Pluri-national State of Bolivia. Over 50,000 attended, waving both Bolivian national flags and wiphalas, the rainbow flag of the Andean indigenous peoples. Standing guard along with a detachment of soliders were the legendary Red Ponchos of Achacachi.

Led by a council of amautas (wise men), Morales entered the temple, where, after being ritually purified, he was adorned with a chuku, a ceremonial woven crown and unku, a white tunic of llama wool. Holding the hand of a yatiri (centenarian woman), Morales then ascended the Akapana pyramid, where he saluted the four directions, and commended himself to Mother Earth (Pachamama).

At the end of the ceremony, Morales delivered a speech in three languages: Quechua, Aymara and Spanish. Explaining the meaning of the word Kalasasaya (stone placed high), he said that Bolivia, “will always be standing, and would never kneel down.” He dedicated most of the speech to addressing the world ecological crisis. “Today, to defend the rights of Mother Earth is to defend human rights.” He said he saw himself as a president between two states—the colonial one fading away and the pluri-national one being born. (Granma, Cuba, Jan. 22)

Morales decreed Jan. 22 a national holiday marking the founding of an ethnically inclusive republic. It will be on an equal footing with Aug. 6, marking Bolivia’s 1825 independence from Spain. (AP, Jan. 28)

Along with the Dec. 6 presidential and legislative elections in which Morales won a second term, 12 of Bolivia’s 327 municipalities voted to adopt indigenous forms of self-government, giving them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use funds from the national state. In addition, legal disputes and crimes in those municipalities will be tried in traditional local courts; elections will be organized and community leaders appointed according to native customs, based on a tradition of consensus-building. Details on how the indigenous autonomy system will function must still be worked out in enabling legislation after Bolivia’s congress reconvenes. (IPS, Dec. 23)

See our last posts on the Bolivia and the world indigenous struggle.

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