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Apr-15-2009 11:40printcomments

Bolivian President's Hunger Strike Changes Election Law

Politics in South American contrast starkly with the American way.
Morales and supporters spend days sleeping on mattresses in the presidential palace [EPA]

(LA PAZ, Bolivia) - Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, has ended his five-day hunger strike after Bolivia's congress approved a new election law.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is
South America's first indigenous
President; known for supporting the
poor and the hungry and the tired.

The law permits Morales to stand again for election on December 6, reserves 14 congressional seats for indigenous candidates and permits expatriates to vote.

The Bolivian president spent several nights on a mattress on the floor of Bolivia's presidential palace, surrounded by banners and supporters and chewing coca leaves to ward off hunger after beginning the strike.

Recent polls suggest that Morales, the Andean nation's first indigenous president and a critic of the United States who has yet to announce his candidacy, will most likely win re-election.

Vote concerns

Morales's Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS party, had enough votes to ratify the bill in the lower house and senate, but the opposition had refused to grant the quorum needed for a vote. MAS controls the lower chamber, but opposition parties have used their slim majority in the senate to block dozens of government-proposed reforms.

Morales's opponents say the law will give him political advantage because it assigns more seats to the poor, indigenous parts of the country whose rights he has championed since he took office in 2006.

However, a deal was reached after Morales ordered officials to compile a new electoral register, following opposition leaders' claims that he could exploit "flaws" in the existing census to rig the vote.

'Racist' opposition

Morales had earlier condemned the opposition for being "racist, fascist, selfish" in refusing to ratify the law.

He also said that he had received supportive phone calls from Hugo Chavez, the Venezuela president, and Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba.

Morales, a former coca farmer, has said he once went without food for 18 days in 1998 to protest against the then-government's policy on coca, the raw material for cocaine revered by Bolivian Indians for its medicinal and nutritional properties, Reuters reported.

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gp April 15, 2009 3:34 pm (Pacific time)

Evo Morales is the greatest hope for democracy on the planet today. What the news seldom reports is that Evo also supports the right of the people to withdraw support for any elected official at any time during their elected term of office. Had we such a law in the USA, we could have dumped W several years in advance of Obama's ascenscion to the Presidency and called for new elections. What a bright idea, true democracy. Keep 'em if they do a good job and dump them if they commit high crimes like torture, lies leading to an illegal and immoral war and rendition. Go Evo!

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