With an illegal referendum, the richest department tries to separate itself from bolivia

Everything is going according to plan in santa cruz, and the operators of the referendum in the largest bolivian department declare a landslide victory of more than 80 percent for their autonomy plans. The "victory" of the "si" was already programmed because the opponents of the autonomy plans boycotted the vote after it was prohibited by the national electoral tribunal (cne). The bolivian left-wing government under evo morales speaks of a "fiasco" of the right-wing regional government. "Official results" the results of the vote are not expected for a few days, but they have no meaning anyway, because neither observers nor other certainties guaranteed a correct vote. Incidents that cast doubt on a clean vote were also registered.

The problem santa cruz

In santa cruz the supporters celebrated. Image: prefectura santa cruz

On sunday, about one million people in bolivia’s largest and richest department were to vote on a statute of autonomy for santa cruz (rich and independent). It is located in the tropical lowlands and here are found large parts of the natural gas and oil deposits, which the local oligarchy wants to have full control over. In addition, around bolivia’s second largest city, santa cruz, a dynamic export economy and an agribusiness based on the brazilian model has developed, the profits of which are also not to be used for the general development of the country.

Although it is always referred to only "autonomy" the power plant has been the subject of much talk, but in fact the statute takes away almost all of the central government’s powers. This is particularly clear in article 6 on the "exclusive powers". There practically everything is listed, which are usually competences of the central state. Included in it, as point 26 describes, is even the autonomy of the state "defense" at the level of the department. As a result, in addition to its own police force, it was necessary to build its own army. But above all, as expressed in point 3, it is about the "administration of the assets and revenues at the level of the".

As 106 notes in 64 pages show, it was copied directly from the statutes of autonomy in the spanish state. In each case, the most far-reaching powers were taken from different texts. Not noted was the fact that, as in the case of the basque country, dozens of powers have never been transferred to the basque regional government over the past 30 years. For competences such as defense, however, one misses international examples, because such a competence has nothing to do with autonomy, but is an expression of the sovereignty of a state.

In any case, the operators of the referendum, such as the prefect ruben costas, had found clear words to make it clear that their goal is not autonomy for a region. He spoke of a "new republic" – and this has little to do with what is written in the preamble of the status. Accordingly, the goal "unity of the state of bolivia to strong". This should be done according to the principles of a "social and constitutional state and the main democratic elements of the" happen. The fact that the advertisement for the autonomy plans on the web pages of the regional government is filed in a subfolder "separata" under separatism, is one of such revealing mistakes.

To justify their request, the operators of the statute also fabricate a "people of santa cruz" which, unlike in the case of the basques or catalans, did not exist historically, in order to take full control of the wealth of the region. One may ask why autonomy is not granted to those areas of bolivia where there are indigenous majorities with their own language and culture. This was a demand that arose in the context of the autonomy debate, when president evo morales gave in to plans for autonomy in the context of the constitutional reform.

The santa cruz problem

In la paz on sunday, half a million people demonstrated against the referendum. Image: abi

If people in santa cruz wanted the state and its organs to be strong and to act according to the principles of the rule of law, they had not carried out the vote on sunday. Because it was the supreme electoral court that ruled in march that the organizational and legal requirements for the plebiscite were not met (bolivia faces new conflicts). This was true not only of the vote in santa cruz, but also of the plebiscite for bolivia’s new capture, which was postponed out of respect for morales’s judgement.

After the verdict, the national electoral council made it clear that it would not provide the hardware or software for the illegal referendum, nor would it participate in the payout. The request of the santa cruz regional electoral council was rejected, and no official observation and control was provided by the national electoral council either. Given the intransigent attitude of the local oligarchy, even the organization of american states (oas) and the european union had not sent observers to santa cruz, in order not to give recognition to the vote.

Not only was the referendum illegitimate, but the conditions were more than suitable for the kind of fraud that the morales government warned about early on. In order to avoid conflicts, however, the government had called on its sympathizers not to demonstrate en masse in santa cruz on the day of the vote, as planned, but simply to boycott the vote. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of morales supporters demonstrated in the cities of cochabamba, la paz, el alto, potosi, tarija, oruro and chuquisaca against the autonomy plans and demanded legal action against those responsible, because "unity of the country" attacked.

Because santa cruz was left out of the demonstrations, there were only isolated clashes between opponents and supporters of the vote, in which about 30 people were injured. One person died from trangenic gas poisoning. The feared outbreak of massive violence was thus prevented. However, in poor neighborhoods of santa cruz, opponents also tried to actively prevent the vote and stormed polling stations. During the burning of the ballot boxes, they found that several of them had already been filled with yes votes before the opening of the polling stations. This was mainly from the poor quarter "tres mil" reported, in which 250.000 people, many of them supporters of morales. However, such incidents have also been reported in other parts of the department and are directly attributed to the regional electoral council. It is also reported that voters were brought in from other parts of the country.

President morales calls on the prefects to engage in dialogue. Image: abi

While the supporters of morales have a majority of more than 80 percent in the vote and have reported on the streets of santa cruz during the night the expected "victory" the government speaks of a "fiasco" of the "poll". About 40 percent of the population had not participated in the vote, if you add the invalid votes and the votes with a no, then the poll had turned into a "pipe-dropper for the separatists" developed, "that want to destroy bolivia", said morales.

He made it clear once again that first the people would have to vote on the new constitution and then autonomies for different regions would be negotiated. The elites in santa cruz wanted to torpedo this procedure with their anticipation, just as they had previously tried to sabotage the adoption of a new constitution by all means (conflicts in bolivia continue after the adoption of the constitution), with which the nationalization of national wealth and a land reform are to be secured.

Morales again called on the prefects of all departments to engage in dialogue to find solutions to the problems: "the dialogue cannot be about solving the problems of some families that have always lived off the land, off the people, but the dialogue must serve the search for equality among the people, their demands and social justice", morales explained. He is aware that the demands for autonomy are now anchored in the broad population of various departments and cannot be fought by force. According to the report, similar votes are coming up in the departments of pando, beni and tarija, which will further aggravate the situation.

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