Bolivia: new constitution protested

Meeting in a heavily guarded military academy on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly approved a new Constitution late on Nov. 24 with the support of 136 of the 255 delegates. Two delegates abstained, and the majority of the opposition, led by the Democratic and Social Power (PODEMOS) party, boycotted the session. Most of the votes for the new Constitution came from the leftist Movement to Socialism (MAS) of President Evo Morales, but some opposition delegates backed it, including three from PODEMOS. The Constituent Assembly, which has been meeting for 15 months, approved the document “as a whole” but left some details to be worked out.

Outside the academy, police agents battled right-wing students who were trying to stop the session in Sucre, which had started on Nov. 23. One protester, Gonzalo Duran Sacarani, was shot dead with a bullet to his chest. Government Minister Alfredo Rada insisted that the police had only used tear gas and anti-riot equipment. Defender of the People Waldo Albarracin, the government’s human rights prosecutor, called for an investigation into Duran’s death. In addition to the police, a group of 2,000 civilian supporters formed a “security cordon” around the Constituent Assembly meeting.

Chuquisaca department, where Sucre is located, has been a center of opposition to President Morales’ push for a new Constitution that would increase the power of the indigenous majority. The opposition has called for greater autonomy for the various departments. They also want the capital moved from La Paz to Sucre; currently the executive and legislative branches are in La Paz, while the higher courts are in Sucre. (La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 25 from correspondent)

Violent protests continued on Nov. 25, as opponents to the new Constitution attacked police stations and set a jail on fire, causing more than 100 inmates to escape. A protester and a police agent were killed. A doctor at Santa Barbara hospital told Fides radio that the protester died after being hit by a tear gas canister; it was not clear how the agent was killed. (San Diego Union Tribune, Nov. 25 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 26

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