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Bolivia autonomy referendum approved by fourth province

[JURIST] The Bolivian province of Tarija approved [Agencia Boliviana de Information (ABI) report, in Spanish] a referendum Sunday calling for greater autonomy, becoming the fourth of nine provinces to approve increased freedom from Bolivia's socialist government. The voting results in Tarija, which has considerable natural gas deposits, were similar to those in three other neighboring provinces, which have similar mineral resource wealth. Voters in those provinces have opposed a plan by Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] to redistribute land and wealth in the country to aid the nation's historically disenfranchised Indian population. The Bolivian government characterized the autonomy referendum as irrelevant, since provinces can only gain autonomy through an amendment to the Bolivian constitution [text], but provisional poll results show that about 80 percent of the region's voters supported the changes. AFP has more.

Earlier this month, voters in Beni and Pando provinces voted [JURIST report] in favor of similar autonomy measures, while voters in the province of Santa Cruz approved [JURIST report] autonomy measures last month. In 2006, governors from six of Bolivia's nine states vowed to break off relations with Morales following a bid to give his leftist party more power [JURIST reports] to rewrite the Bolivian constitution [JURIST news archive]. A proposed national referendum on the new draft constitution, which had originally been blocked [JURIST report], was narrowly approved in February by the Bolivian Constitutional Assembly [official website, in Spanish] amid reports that Morales supporters prevented many draft opponents from entering the constitutional building to participate in the vote. In May, the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] voted to hold a national referendum [JURIST report] on Morales and 10 other officials on August 10. The officials must win more than 53.74 percent of the vote to keep their positions.

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