Monday, June 2, 2008

Bolivia News:  Departments of Beni & Pando Approve Autonomy Referenda


Percentage Votes for Autonomy:   Beni 88.6%,   Pando 85%
Source:  El Deber

Voters in the Bolivian Departments of Beni and Pando approved individual referendums Sunday to establish their autonomy from the central government in La Paz by overwhelming margins.  In Beni the vote was 88.6% For to 11.4% Against and in Pando the split was 85% to 15%.  The two departments joined neighboring Santa Cruz, which approved its own autonomy measure on May 4 with over 86% voting in favor.  The final referendum to be held later this month will take place in the southernmost department of Tarija on June 22, where prognostications suggest that voters will show a similar level of support as did their neighbors in the other three departments of the so-called Media Luna region of eastern Bolivia.

There were reports of isolated incidents in both departments where activists - read "thugs" - from Evo Morales's MAS Party set up blockades in some of the more remote regions to harass voters, but apparently not achieving significant success.  The Prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez, said that some 2,500 people were probably prevented from voting and he pointedly blamed Bolivian President Evo Morales for instigating the action of his MAS supporters.  In Beni Masistas blocked the main highway into the city of Yacumo in the western part of the department and apparently assaulted and beat up the city's mayor, who was taken to a hospital where he was treated for head injuries.  In Beni's capital city of Trinidad there were separate instances in which Mas supporters faced off against both local residents and some youths from the Union Juvenil of Santa Cruz, who showed up in support of their Beni neighbors.  At one point police were called in to disrupt one confrontation.

Bolivia's Nine Departments


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