This is no autonomist victory nor is it a “democratic fiesta” — it’s a violent, failed opinion poll whose rate of abstention is three times the usual rate, says the President.
The illegal and unconstitutional referendum resoundingly failed to adopt the statute of autonomy for Santa Cruz, said President Evo Morales, as the poll showed that at least half of Cruceño citizens do not support the model of autonomy pushed by some clans.
Leading politicians and businessmen from the Santa Cruz department swear that more than 80 percent of voters approved their statute. “Today we say to the world that we are already autonomous, viva Santa Cruz,” declared the chairman of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee Branco Marinkovic in a triumphant speech at the 24th of September Plaza in the capital of Santa Cruz, as soon as the initial results of the referendum were made public.
Morales saluted the people of Santa Cruz for organizing themselves and resisting the separatist statute of oligarchies on Sunday, the fourth of May, and said that he was impressed by the wisdom and consciousness of people.
In his opinion, the Santa Cruz poll failed because it was not a “democratic fiesta” that autonomists were hoping for but a violent process plagued by irregularities, allegations of fraud, and aggressions of young Cruceño shock troops reinforced by citizens from the interior of the country.
According to the President, the autonomists cannot declare themselves winners who received more than 80 percent of the votes without considering the high rate of citizen abstention which was three times the levels of abstention in recent elections.
The average abstention rate at the national level ranges between 20 and 22 percent. In the Constituent Assembly election, abstention in Santa Cruz amounted to 19 percent. The media estimate that 39 percent of registered voters abstained from voting this Sunday.
The data presented by some media, many of which sympathize with and support the illegal referendum, should worry those who gambled on it, said Morales, because the percentage of abstention plus those of no votes and null votes conclusively shows that at least 50 percent of Cruceños do not support the capitalists’ autonomy.
“To tell the truth, I am sure that far more than 50 percent said no to autonomy. . . , that more data will be found behind the media. . . . Leaders and authorities ought to tell the truth,” emphasized the head of state.
Morales regretted that the referendum had further divided Santa Cruz and set families living in that department at odds with one another.
He appreciated the wisdom and consciousness of people and social movements who today, despite assault and humiliation, rebelled against minority groups who tried forcibly to ratify a model of autonomy that fractures the country.
Morales was referring not only to acts of social repudiation in the city and provinces of Santa Cruz, but especially to multitudinous mobilizations in El Alto, Cochabamba, and La Paz this Sunday “against the Cruceño landowners’ statute.” In Cochabamba, they called for the resignation of Governor Manfred Reyes Villa, and in El Alto they threw stones at the television station of Governor José Luis Paredes. Both Reyes Villa and Paredes are allies of Cruceño autonomists.
The President said that the people were not mobilized by economic resources or perks and assured that his government did not finance any of these mobilizations. “Hence my admiration for these spontaneous demonstrations in defense of legality and equality among Bolivians.”
Morales called upon all opposition governors to work from tomorrow for a genuine autonomy for indigenous peoples, departments, and regions, based on the new Constitution of Bolivia. He hoped that his appeal “will be heard by the governors to ensure autonomy for communities, not for cliques.”
The original article in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 4 May 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.