OAS expresses support for Bolivia’s territorial integrity

May 4th, 2008 - 4:20 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 4 (IANS) The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed support for Bolivia’s territorial integrity and called for a dialogue in the deeply divided nation ahead of an autonomy referendum this weekend in the eastern province of Santa Cruz. The OAS, which adopted a resolution late Friday after seven hours of intense talks, however, did not denounce the holding of the referendum as Bolivian President Evo Morales had demanded, EFE news agency reported Sunday.

Instead, the OAS expressed its support for the leftist government, democratic institutions and the elected authorities and urged the Morales administration and Santa Cruz officials a dialogue “in order to find a constitutional and democratic solution to the conflict.”

Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s wealthiest province and an area rich in natural gas, plans to hold a referendum Sunday to implement a statute that will give the province more control over security, energy reserves and local finances. The statute would also allow direct election of the governor, taking away the president’s power to appoint regional leaders.

Morales said Sunday’s referendum in Santa Cruz or the proposed plebiscites in other eastern states scheduled later this year are illegal and that he will not recognize autonomy status for either Santa Cruz or the opposition-led provinces.

The 35-nation OAS adopted the document after its secretary of political affairs, former Argentine Foreign Minister Dante Caputo, expressed his fear that the crisis in Bolivia could spill over into violence on the streets between Morales’ indigenous supporters and autonomy supporters in the relatively affluent Santa Cruz province.

Shortly before the OAS resolution was announced, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca had reiterated the willingness of the Morales administration to engage in dialogue while accusing Santa Cruz authorities of refusing to enter into negotiations.

“The doors to dialogue that President Evo Morales has opened have been blocked,” he said.

More than 1,000 Morales supporters gathered Friday at a plaza in Santa Cruz city and threatened that they would not allow the autonomy referendum to be held in rural areas.

Morales, a socialist and first indigenous president of this Indian-majority country, issued a decree two years ago “nationalizing” Bolivia’s fossil fuels, described as a sweeping reform of taxes and royalties to capture a much bigger share of the revenues generated by the poor Andean nation’s massive reserves of natural gas.

Earlier last week, Morales announced nationalization of three foreign-owned energy firms and a telecommunications company.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |