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Congress approves vote law after hunger strike by Morales

Video by Louis MASSIE

Latest update : 2009-04-10

Bolivian President Evo Morales declared he would begin a hunger strike Thursday to protest opposition moves to block a controversial electoral law that would allow him to run for reelection for another five-year term.

AFP - Bolivian President Evo Morales declared he would begin a hunger strike Thursday to protest opposition moves to block an electoral law they say will ensure Morales's victory in December elections.
  
"Faced with the negligence of a group of neoliberal lawmakers, we have to take this step," Morales told reporters at the presidential palace in La Paz.
  
"Now is the best time to force opposition senators in the national congress to approve the new law," he added, flanked by farmers and labor leaders.
  
Morales's ruling government controls the presidency and holds a firm grip on congress's lower house, but opposition lawmakers retain control of the senate.
  
The electoral law, mandated in the new constitution approved in January, would set a December 6 date for a national poll.
  
The controversial constitution allows, among other things, for Morales -- South America's first indigenous head of state -- to run for reelection for another five-year term.
  
Opposition lawmakers continue to block the bill because they say it hands 14 congressional seats to indigenous groups -- a move they maintain would simply grant Morales electoral success.
  

He won the 2005 elections on the back of strong indigenous support and he continues to champion the group's rights. The sweeping constitutional changes gave the country's 36 indigenous communities and groups rights to territory, language and even their own "community" systems of justice.
  
Later Thursday members of the presidential cabinet pledged to join the president in his hunger protest but a palace spokesman ruled out a solidarity strike, to ensure the Andean country continues to function.
  
Opposition leaders were quick to criticize the hunger strike as political theater.
  
"The strike is ridiculous," said Fernando Mesmer, member of the influential center-right opposition party Podemos. The majority party "wants to ensure (Morales's) re-election because they are so addicted to power, they want to stay in power to cover up the massive corruption," he added.
  
After the announcement Morales suspended a planned visit to Cuba on Thursday to meet counterpart Raul Castro and his elder brother, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
  
Morales did not rule out resuming the trip schedule when the situation in La Paz "returns to normal."
 

Date created : 2009-04-10

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