The Indigenous people of Bolivia, who make up more than 60% of the population, are taking steps towards self-government under their own cultural traditions that date back to pre-colonial times.
On Dec. 6, 12 of Bolivia’s 327 municipalities voted in favour of Indigenous self-government, which will give them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use funds transferred from the central state.
In addition, legal disputes and crimes in those municipalities will be tried in traditional local courts, and elections will be organized and community leaders appointed according to native customs.
But apparently the actual details on how it all will function must still be legislated by Congress.
On Dec. 6, President Evo Morales, the country’s first-ever indigenous president, was reelected in a landslide victory with 63% of the vote, and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party won a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress.
The new constitution that went into effect in February after winning the support of 61% of voters recognizes that Bolivia is a “multi-national” state made up of peoples who have a right to autonomy and the right to preserve their culture.
Indigenous people in Bolivia have been historically downtrodden and marginalized, only gaining full voting rights in 1952. Even today, some Indians continue to work as serfs on large estates owned by the European or mixed-race elite.
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