Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bolivian leaders agree to referendum

Reports from Bolivia say Congress has approved plans for a national referendum on a new constitution that would give more power to the left-leaning central government to the detriment of the country's mostly white eastern provinces, which want autonomy. President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first leader from the majority Indian population who is pushing the new constitution against considerable opposition, agreed to serve only one term if the new laws are adopted, according to CNN. The agreement was reached Tuesday after an all-night debate that began Monday, CNN said, citing the Bolivian Information Agency. Parties to the deal hope the planned Jan. 25, 2009, vote will diffuse demonstrations and clashes in La Paz, the capital, that have threatened to split the country. Supporters of Morales, an ally of Venezuela's anti-U.S. president Hugo Chavez and former Cuban President Fidel Castro, took to the street of La Paz on Monday to express support for the referendum. The deal follows weeks of negotiations and demonstrations that resulted in more than 30 deaths. Points of controversy also include the distribution of wealth from Bolivia's burgeoning oil industry.

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