Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Morales Ups Political Capital with Referendum Results

La Paz & Lima - Aug 13 (digitalwarriormedia) - On Sunday night preliminary voting results of the recall referendum led political analysts to state that Morales suffered a regional defeat; the prefects (governors) of Cochabamba, La Paz and Oruro were out of a job; and recalled Cochabamba prefect Manfred Reyes Villa vowed to stay in his post until 2009.

Three days later, the political landscape in Bolivia proves that patience truly is a virtue, even in the nefarious game of politics.

Contrary to reports that the president lost voter confidence in five regions, Evo’s approval ratings continue to climb as the outcome from Sunday’s referendum is finalized.

With 94% of votes counted as of Wednesday, Morales’ ratification stands at 67%, which is at least 4 percentage points higher than the results announced on Sunday.

Voter confidence grew in all but the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz. Most interestingly Morales received more than 53% of “Yes” votes in Chuquisaca and currently is in a position to finish slightly above 50% in Tarija.

If these percentages hold or increase, Morales stands to be ratified in six of the eight departments that participated.

Despite his initial defiance, former Cochabamba prefect Manfred Reyes Villa was forced to relinquish his post. And although he continues to claim that the recall referendum vote was unconstitutional and illegal, Reyes Villa had to respect the decision of the people by resigning on Tuesday.

He experienced the most resounding defeat of the regional governors that were recalled, with 64% of Cochabambinos saying “No” to Manfred. Statements from Reyes Villa that Morales supporters wanted to "storm the regional government building" in the city of Cochabamba remain unfounded.

Meanwhile, with 99.1% of the votes counted in Oruro, Roberto Aguilar holds on to his post with a slim margin of victory as his ratification stands at 50.74%. Initial results from Sunday indicated that Aguilar was recalled, but as of Wednesday, the MAS party member and supporter of Morales, just might keep his office.

These ongoing results indicate that only two prefects were recalled – Reyes Villa (Cochabamba) and Jose Luis Paredes (La Paz).

The shifting outcome may also be influencing the stance of the opposition. During a press conference held in Santa Cruz yesterday, the National Democratic Council (CONALDE) group – made up of the five opposition prefects and civic leaders - issued a statement refusing to dialogue until the central government reinstituted funds from the hydrocarbon revenues.

Then today, Leopoldo Fernandez (Pando), Ernesto Suarez (Beni), Mario Cossío (Tarija) and Savina Cuellar (Chuquisaca) agreed to talk unconditionally with the president. It is a major turn-about from the statement made by the group of five yesterday.

Fresh from a CONALDE meeting that commenced Wednesday morning, the four opposition governors traveled to La Paz to meet with President Morales this afternoon.

Ruben Costas, governor of Santa Cruz and the unabated regional leader most vocally opposed to the central government, declined to travel to La Paz, sending a delegation instead. Costas is in the seventh day of a hunger strike aimed at forcing the Morales administration to concede to relinquish funds from the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax (IDH).

Prior to the prefects’ journey to La Paz today, President Morales announced that five of his ministers will travel to each of the five opposition departments in order to set an agenda for dialogue with the governors.

Morales seeks to bring together the draft Constitution of the State with the autonomic statutes sought by regional departments.

According to Bolivia's La Prensa, the Confederación Sindical de Colonizadores de Bolivia (CNCB), the Coordinadora Nacional por el Cambio de Bolivia (CONALCAM) and the Consejo Nacional De Ayllus Y Markas Del Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) are commencing campaigns to educate and mobilize their members in support of the new constitutional text.

Now that the recall referendum vote has concluded peacefully, the MAS party and social organizations will press forward to reach the next major chapter in Bolivia’s political transformation, a referendum on the nation’s new constitution.

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