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New Bolivia constitution in force

Evo Morales - 7/2/2009
Mr Morales said he had accomplished his mission to refound Bolivia

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has enacted a new constitution that aims to empower the country's indigenous majority and allows for land reform.

Mr Morales said he had accomplished his mission to re-found Bolivia.

The new constitution was approved in a referendum last month by 61% of voters, but was rejected in the lowland regions where Bolivia's wealth is concentrated.

The constitution also scraps the single term limit for the president, allowing Mr Morales to seek re-election.

Mr Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the town of El Alto, near the administrative capital of La Paz, Mr Morales said his opponents had "tried ceaselessly" to kill him.

"Now I want to tell you that they can drag me from the palace. They can kill me. Mission accomplished for the re-founding of the new united Bolivia."

KEY REFORMS
Re-election: Allows Mr Morales to stand for re-election in Dec 2009
Indigenous rights: Stresses importance of ethnicity in Bolivia's make-up. A whole chapter devoted to indigenous rights
Autonomy: Power decentralised, four levels of autonomy - departmental, regional, municipal and indigenous
Resources: Sets out state control over key economic sectors, state sovereignty over vast natural gas fields
Judiciary: Indigenous systems of justice same status as official existing system. Judges will be elected, and no longer appointed by Congress.
Land: New limit on ownership 5,000 hectares (12,355). But measure not retroactive.

Support for Mr Morales' constitution was highest in the western highlands where the country's indigenous majority is concentrated.

The document gives sweeping rights to Bolivia's 36 indigenous groups in the areas of government, the judiciary and land holdings.

It also allows agrarian land reform to take place by limiting the size of rural landholdings in future sales.

But the polarisation that has dogged the country since Mr Morales took office in 2006 is unlikely to diminish, say correspondents.

Many Bolivians of European or mixed-race descent in the fertile eastern lowlands, which hold rich gas deposits and are home to extensive farms, rejected the constitution.

The referendum failed to attract support in the opposition strongholds of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando.

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SEE ALSO
Bolivians 'back new constitution'
26 Jan 09 |  Americas
Bolivia poll won't end opposition
24 Jan 09 |  Americas
Governors snub Bolivia referendum
24 Jun 08 |  Americas
Bolivia poll sparks crisis fears
30 Apr 08 |  Americas
Battle for Bolivia's heart
08 Sep 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Bolivia
03 Feb 09 |  Country profiles

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