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Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leaders OK national vote on new constitution

October 22, 2008

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— Bolivian legislators Tuesday approved a national referendum on the country's controversial draft constitution, a major victory for leftist President Evo Morales in this divided nation.

"There is no going back from this process of change," said a jubilant Morales, addressing thousands of supporters in the Plaza Murillo downtown.

The new constitution provides autonomy for indigenous groups and clears the way for more socialist reforms by a president who already has moved to nationalize the nation's energy and telecommunications sectors.

However, Morales reportedly agreed to modify several of the constitution's more incendiary sections, including those governing land reform and the authority of indigenous courts, which would augment the government judiciary.

Morales, who took office in January 2006, also compromised on term limits. He agreed that he would be allowed to seek re-election to one five-year term; an earlier draft would have allowed him to run for two additional consecutive terms.

Most analysts expect the constitution to be approved in a national vote scheduled for Jan. 25. Morales probably would then stand for re-election in December 2009.

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