Bolivia: Santa Cruz authorities won’t seat indigenous lawmakers

The conservative opposition government in Bolivia’s eastern lowland department of Santa Cruz, which jealously guards its autonomy from President Evo Morales’ government in La Paz, is refusing to recognize the election of two indigenous lawmakers to the departmental assembly, claiming they were voted in by a process not delineated in the national electoral code. The two men, members of the Yuracaré–Mojeño and Guarayo ethnicities, were elected in the April 4 vote through a process of “usos y costumbres,” or traditional indigenous community decision-making. This process is recognized as legitimate by the autonomy provisions of Bolivia’s new constitution, which also instated departmental assemblies for the first time.

However, the electoral code has apparently not been brought into conformity with these new constitutional provisions. The case now goes before the National Electoral Court. The Central of Guarayo Native Peoples (COPNAG) and the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB) are demanding that the two leaders be seated. (Erbol, via Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, April 19)

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