Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)
Thousands of miners blocked highways in five departments of Bolivia for five days starting March 31 to protest a pending new mining law. Members of mining cooperatives installed at least 10 roablocks in the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí and Oruro. At least three were killed in clashes with the National Police. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation, which had already cleared the lower-house Chamber of Deputies. The bill sought to bar the cooperatives from seeking private investment, restricting them to contracts with the Bolivian state. In response to the protests, President Evo Morales is drafting a new bill that would allow private contracts while restricting investment by foreign companies. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, April 5; EFE, AFP, El Universal, Venezuela, April 4; EFE, April 3; El Deber, Santa Cruz, Reuters, April 1)
The Dakar Rally Raid motor-race across the Andes has already claimed three lives since leaving Rosario, Argentina, on Jan. 4—a motorcylist and two "spectators" who were following the race in a vehicle. Progress was finally halted five days later when residents and municipal workers in the Argentine town of Juan Alberdi, Tucumán province, blocked the road to prevent passage. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 11; EFE, El Gráfico, Buenos Aires, Jan. 9) Meanwhile, the Chilean Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the motor-race brought by the College of Archaeologists of Chile, who site damage to ancient petroglyphs in a previous Dakar Rally through the country. The group's vice president Paola González, told France24: "In Chile, a national monuments law considers this a punishable crime. Nevertheless, the destruction with impunity of our national heritage continues."
Bolivia is mobilizing police to the route across the Altiplano and Uyuni salt flats to be taken by the upcoming Dakar Rally Raid cross-country motor-race following a pledge by Aymara protesters to blockade it with their bodies. Adherents of dissident Aymara organization CONAMAQ say they will block the international road rally to press their demands that National Police troops that have been surrounding their La Paz office stand down. CONAMAQ followers along the route through Potosí and Oruro departments are organizing their communities for action. "We say that Dakar will only benefit the city, and not the indigenous peoples," said CONAMAQ leader Rafael Quispe. "The leaders of the 16 suyus [indigenous regions] have resolved to block the passage of Dakar."
Bolivia's President Evo Morales said Oct. 28 that his country has achieved the conditions to obtain nuclear power for "pacific ends," and that Argentina and France would help "with their knowledge." He made his comments at the opening of a "Hydrocarbon Sovereignty" conference in Tarija. In May, Bolivia and Argentina signed an accord on nuclear cooperation. In an obvious reference to the United States, Morales anticipated political obstacles, saying that "some countries have [nuclear energy] but don't want to let others."
Six leaders of the dissident Aymara organization CONAMAQ held a hunger strike for four days at the doors of the Bolivian congress building last month, as the lower-house Chamber of Deputies debated a bill on assigning legislative seats to ethnicities and regions of the country. The strike was lifted after the law was approved Oct. 7. By then, one Aymara elder, Simón Antonio Cuisa from Charcas Qhara Qhara, Potosí, had been hospitalized. On breaking his strike after the vote, CONAMAQ leader Rafael Quispe said, "The plurinaitonal state is mortally wounded." CONAMAQ and its congressional allies—dissident members of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), calling themselves the "free-thinkers" (librepensantes)—pledged to seek the law's reform. Dissident MAS lawmaker Rebeca Delgado spoke on the chamber floor in support of CONAMAQ's demands before the vote. CONAMAQ is demanding an increase in the number of congressional seats assigned to indigenous Bolivians from seven to 16, questioning the results of the 2012 census on which the apportioning was based. Chamber of Deputies president Betty Tejada (MAS) responded that the 130-seat body is already 70% indigenous. (Erbol, Oct. 31; Reuters, Oct. 8; BolPress, Cámara de Diputados, Oct. 7; Erbol, Oct. 5; La Prensa, La Paz, Oct. 6; Servindi, Oct. 4)
Four people are reported to have been killed in Bolivia last week by local residents acting in the name of "community justice." In Colquechaca, Potosí, a youth of 16 was buried alive by local Quechua residents after being accused of raping and killing a local woman. A district prosecutor reported that he was thrown alive into the same grave as his purported victim. Two men, 17 and 21, were reportedly burned alive at Tres Cruces, Potosí, accused of having killed a local taxi driver. The fourth fatality took place in an unnamed pueblo in the Chapare region of Cochabamba department, where an accused thief was beaten to death. "Community justice" is enshrined in Bolivia's new constitution, amid provisions instating local autonomy for indigenous peoples, but the government considers such incidents to be lynchings. (InfoBAE, NY Daily News, June 7)
Traditional authorities at the Aymara community of Mallku Khota in Bolivia's Potosí department declared two technicians from Canadian mining company South American Silver to be fugitives from justice for failing to to follow through on pledges to provide a payment of two thousand abode bricks each as a fine after they were found to be "spying" on community meetings. "We lament that they have not complied, despite their commitment, and despite guarantees from the national authorities," said community leader Leonardo Montaño. "This implicates that the Political Constitution of the State is not being complied with."