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The Bolivian Divide

by Archives January 27, 2009

It was announced on Sunday that Bolivia has voted to allow for new changes in its constitution, giving more power to indigenous peoples in terms of land distribution and private ownership.
Evo Morales, the now famous Bolivian president, has been pushing for these constitutional changes since he was first elected into power in 2005.
By quickly glancing at mainstream media, it seems like a picture perfect situation: a country that has been a victim of colonial greed and major political corruption, even more so than any of its neighbours, has made history by voting an indigenous president from an extremely poor coca farming family, who didn’t even have the chance to graduate high school. The people spoke, so it seems.
With Evo’s background it’s only natural he would want to increase the rights of Bolivian natives. The thing is, it’s just not that simple, and although it would seem justified to redistribute the fertile land in the eastern lowlands, the attention is always focused on wealthy ranchers.
Having lived in Bolivia, I agree with these wealthy, European descendants having their mega-ranches of land divided, that’s fine, and it’s fair. My problem is the lack of attention, both from Morales’s political party and from mainstream media, given to the indigenous people of the eastern lowlands.
Morales and his party are open about their goal of returning the land to the Aymara and Quechuu peoples, but it seems as if in all this excitement they have forgotten that Bolivia is a country with 67 official languages, and just as many, if not more unique native cultures, all of which have been negatively affected since the Spanish arrived.
Why do we so often hear of Morales’s fight for his people, and never the impact his new constitution will have on the native populations in the provinces of Beni, Santa Cruz, Tarija and Chuquisaca? What is to come of the Guarani people of Santa Cruz who will be, once again, displaced from their land?
The sad difference this time, is that their problems may not be caused by the greedy hand of the European rancher, nor the coca paranoid force of the United States, but rather, from their own president, who has based so much of his campaign on his indigenous identity. Morales is treading on thin ice, and it would be a tragedy for him to go from oppressed to oppressor.

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