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Bolivia’s President Goes on Hunger Strike

Bolivia’s President Goes on Hunger Strike

President Evo Morales of Bolivia went on a hunger strike beginning April 9th in protest of congressional attempts to block an electoral bill. He has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the presidential palace with supporters and has canceled two upcoming summit visits.

The bill would create fourteen new electoral districts in rural areas, giving indigenous groups more seats in Congress. As the first indigenous president of Bolivia, President Morales has championed reform to give more rights to the disenfranchised indigenous majority of Bolivia, including a recently passed new constitution.

Members of the opposition argue that it would give the president a distinct political advantage and secure his reelection. Senator Walter Guiteras describes the strike as “shameless” and “blackmail,” while opposition member Fernando Mesmer claims President Morales is trying to ensure his reelection and “cover up the massive corruption.” The president has called the opposition “racist, fascist [and] selfish,” and announced in a press conference, “Faced with the negligence of a group of neoliberal lawmakers, we had to take this next step.”

Cabinet members had volunteered to join the president on his hunger strike, but their offer was struck down in order to keep the country functioning.

President Morales went on a hunger strike one other time in 1998 in protest of the government’s policy towards coca, the plant used to make cocaine which holds significance among Bolivia’s indigenous groups for its medicinal and nutritional properties.

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8 comments

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2:54PM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

Natasha,
From the percentages you mention, a vast majority (more than seven million people out of the 9 total), identify themselves as mixed, and are either cholos y cholas, virlochas, imillas, llockallas and campesinos (peasants and small farmers). From the rest, only 500,000 identify themselves as 'originary', meaning they are pure indians. Evo has always been part of the majority called cholos, that is, a mixture with the white race at some point of their heritage, who live in or near a big city, do not share indian languages anymore, and do not share the same social values. There is nothing wrong with being a leader and not a farmer. What is wrong is to make everyone think you are 'originary' (or a farmer) when you are not, because your values are different. This is the way we Bolivians understand social streams.

9:06AM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

Jacqueline --
According to CIA World Factbook, 30 percent are Quechua, 25 percent are Aymara, 30 percent are mixed and 15 percent are white. In regards to his ethnicity, his mother has an Aymara surname, and while obviously I cannot prove his indigenous ancestry, he grew up harvesting sugar cane, herding llamas and growing coca. Because this lifestyle is like many that of many indigenous people in Bolivia, he no doubt faced similar issues growing up.
Even though I disagree with much of your comments, I still am happy to have you add to the conversation. The more voices here, the better!

1:33PM PDT on Apr 15, 2009

Evo is amazing. So is his marketing team!
I am sure the people above do not live in Bolivia and have never been here. 80% of Bolivians come from mixed races, so it is wrong to say so many of us are 'indigenous'.Evo's team made you believe the opposite. He even made you think HE is actually indigenous. Well, his last name is not indigenous, he doesn't speak any indigenous language (only Spanish)and he is responsible for the death of 65 indigenous people in the opposition. The neoliberals slogan was "the riches in the hands of X last names"and leftists' slogan is "riches in the hands of Y last names". The only change here is the different last names. Great marketing can make you believe anything. The truth has never been harder to spot. The poor in Bolivia have to pay thrice for a piece of bread than two years ago, but they still love him so much. Corruption in nationalized companies is enormous and there is no gas in the houses of the poor, but they still want to give him one more election. He is our George Bush. Both killed their nation's economy, but were still sooo loved in the process. I am not against change, neither against the left. In fact I myself am a left hearted warrior of peace. But I'm not a politician, so I don't lie. I ask myself: Where has the truth been hidden? I guess Evo's truth is in good hands, judging by how his convincing marketing teams have convinced even the indians, that he in fact is indian...and that Jesus is almost as good as him.

1:10PM PDT on Apr 15, 2009

It was a brief newsflash on the dutch news here.I hope he gets a lot of support -worldwide- to change for the better for his people

9:38AM PDT on Apr 15, 2009

Long live Evo Morales!

4:54AM PDT on Apr 15, 2009

Why no mention of this on CNN? "Lindsey Lohan Looking For Love Online" is considered "breaking news" on their website, but no mention of a President on a hunger strike? wtf?

1:20PM PDT on Apr 14, 2009

Has anyone considered that it's OK for Pres. Morales to be reelected? The rich don't want him in there because he wants Bolivia to remain Bolivia, not a copy of the USA. That man's heart is in the right place. I think this is the only place on the planet that is actually truly free, and he wants to keep it that way. I can tell who is greedy and uncaring by how they view Morales. He's a very good man, and dedicated to what is right for the people of Bolivia. Sadly, it's too bad our own Presidents aren't like him.

1:04PM PDT on Apr 14, 2009

Bolivia is a country where the majority of people are Indigenous.

A white colonial elite have ruled Bolivia and dominated Bolivian politics since the invasion hundreds of years ago, until the rise of the Indigenous movements and the election of Evo Morales, Bolivia's first Indigenous president, a few years ago. The white elite are unwilling to release their grip on power and their old electoral structure that continues to disadvantage Indigenous people, such that Indigenous people are still mainly poor and white people are still mainly rich.

It is time for a change. All people who learn about the recent history of Bolivia, and who care about human rights, are on the side of the Indigenous majority, on the side of equality, against the white capitalists and their corporate media deceptions!!!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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