Announcing on August 29 a decree to organise a referendum to be held on December 7 on the proposed new constitution, Bolivian President Evo Morales declared: "We must advance in the re-founding of Bolivia to guarantee a state for multiple ethnic groups."
The mandate of the people is to "deepen the process of change", he explained, referring to the historic 67.4% vote that ratified his presidency in a referendum on August 10.
The decree was announced in the presence of social movement leaders, heads of the national armed forces and police and ministers and parliamentarians from the governing party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).
Alongside the referendum, elections will be held to fill the posts left vacant by the recalling of two opposition prefects in the August 10 poll, as well as the first ever elections of departmental councillors and provincial sub-prefects.
If approved, the new constitution would dramatically increase the participation of Bolivia's historically excluded indigenous majority, enshrine and extend state control over natural resources and give the government greater powers to take over and redistribute unused or under utilised land.
For these reasons, the wealthy elites have violently opposed the new constitution.
In the lead-up to the August 10 recall referendums, the right wing unleashed a campaign of violence and intimidation, focused on the opposition-dominated region of the "half moon" — the eastern departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, that has now been joined by Chuquisaca due to the recent election of an opposition prefect.
The half moon authorities have threatened to reject the "imposition" of what they have called a "racist" constitution in the east.
According to the government press agency ABI, MAS Senator Antonio Peredo affirmed that the referendum would go ahead "with or without the approval" of the half moon authorities.
Bolivia's powerful social movements have come out strongly in favor of pushing forward with the new referendum.
An August 22-23 meeting of the National Coalition for Change (CONALCAM), which unites the most powerful indigenous, peasant and social movements in Bolivia, passed a resolution declaring themselves in a state of "permanent mobilisation … to deepen and consolidate the unity of Bolivia and the democratic and cultural revolution led by President Evo Morales Ayma".
Below, Bolivian social movement leader Hugo Moldiz outlines the new offensive being taken by the government and social movements. The article was first translated for Bolivia Rising, http://boliviarising.blogspot.com. The full, translated text of the CONALCAM resolution can also be found at the site.
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Convinced that it is necessary to have a correct reading of the results of the August 10 recall referendum that gave him 68% support — and that his indisputable hegemony in Bolivia's west was strengthen by the majority he received in most of the east — Bolivian President Evo Morales, along with the country's social movements, is pushing to finish off the mortally wounded right wing in order to ensure that it cannot recover.
Just 15 days after historic victory in the recall referendum, Morales has decided to further base himself on the mobilisation of the people in order to confront the destabilisation plans of the ultra-right, and make the August 10 mandate a reality.
This means pushing for the approval in a referendum of the draft constitution, re-appropriating the banner of "autonomy" taken by the right in east and establishing a new form of distribution of state resources.
This decision is more than opportune, given the need to respond to a counter offensive of the right after its defeat on August 10, with a destabilisation plan using violent, economic and judicial means.
Lacking strong political parties, the dominant classes, lead by the agro-exporting, cattle ranching and commercial bourgeoisie — the most conservative of the old historic bloc that continues to resist dying — have found the instruments with which to resist the process of change in the form of the eastern-based "civic committees" and the mass media.
They seek to use these instruments to deal blows against Morales and the project of emancipation that he represents.
The civic committees of the half moon have now moved from a hunger strike to a 24-hour stoppage and another day of road blockades, to the execution of a plan aimed at the take over of public institutions, oil fields and the suspension of the distribution of meat and other products to Bolivia's west.
To these actions, rejected by the majority, have been added the now-common violent actions carried out by paramilitary groups at the urging of the Crucenista Youth Union (UJC).
Recently, these have not only been directed at social movement militants, but also police officers who have suffered all types of attacks.
The government knows it has to stop this. The social movements demanded this in their August 23 meeting with Morales, where they agreed to unite all political and social forces to deepen the process of change and defeat the right.
United line of march
The government and social movements approved a line of march of seeking the approval, via referendum, of the new constitution drafted by the elected constituent assembly.
The new constitution approved by the assembly in December leaves behind the "monocultural state" and recognises the plurinational character of the Bolivia.
It broadens out representative democracy with the incorporation of forms of direct and communitarian democracy; emphasises the active role of the state and communitarian economy within the national economy; respects private property as long as it serves a useful socio-economic function; prohibits the installation of foreign military bases on Bolivian territory; and contains a wide number of social rights for children, youth and older people — never before seen in 183 years of the Bolivian republic.
The proposed constitution recognises four types of autonomy — departmental, regional, indigenous-peasant and municipal (which already exists). In this way it surpasses the proposal of the dominant classes, who talk of departmental autonomy.
The government has disagreed with demands to only implement departmental autonomy, arguing that it reproduces the centralism its advocates criticise, bureaucratises and impedes access to resources for the municipalities and indigenous communities, and restricts democracy.
With a majority recorded for Morales in 95 of the 112 provinces across the country — meaning a majority in the half moon — the government and social movements have the decision to move towards the election of councilors and sub-prefects nationally.
The government and social movements also formed agreements on August 23 over the distribution of state resources.
This line of march, whose mandate was established on August 10, will translate itself into an offensive in all spheres — from the parliamentary to the social — and will count, above all else, on the solid unity that the president has called for in these decisive moments for the Bolivian revolution.