May 5, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Autonomy for eastern Bolivia?

By a vote of over 60 percent, the people of the state of Santa Cruz in Eastern Bolivia have approved a referendum that asserts more rights. It is a step toward a looser federation, but it may not have much practical effect, as the populist President Evo Morales has declared the vote "illegal." Santa Cruz is the wealthiest part of Bolivia and is a vital part of the nation's economy, because that is where most of the petroleum reserves are located, and the controversy over exporting hydrocarbons was one of the main issues that brought Morales to power. Morales is pushing for a vote to approve a major revision of the Bolivian constitution this month, aiming to centralize power in executive hands, supposedly for the sake of enhancing the rights of Indians in Bolivia. See Washington Post.

Since taking office two years ago, the young and energetic Morales has sharply polarized the nation of Bolivia by assuming despotic powers and using force against his opponents. He had urged his "grassroots" (mostly Indian) supporters to boycott the referendum, but even so an estimated 60 percent of eligible voters turned out. It is always ironic when demagogic leaders who pander to the masses get defeated in a free and open election.

Sexual rights for women?

They are also in the process of rewriting the constitution in Ecuador, and Maria Soledad Vela has proposed to include a provision giving women equal rights in sexual matters. That would be a major step forward in this culturally conservative society. "Opposition assembly member, Leonardo Viteri, accused her of trying to decree orgasm by law." See BBC. smile