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Bolivia's Morales praises protesters who blocked opposition lawmakers from constitution vote

Bolivia's Morales praises protesters who blocked opposition lawmakers from constitution vote

President Evo Morales on Friday praised street protesters who blocked opposition lawmakers from attending a congressional session to approve a national referendum on the leftist leader's proposed constitution.
Hundreds of pro-Morales demonstrators on Thursday seized the plaza in front of the congressional building, shutting out many opposition politicians and permitting the presidents' Movement Toward Socialism party to approve the May 4 referendum without debate.
Opposition parties _ who last year walked out on the constitutional assembly and now refuse to recognize the draft it produced _ have bitterly denounced the session as an undemocratic power grab.
"I was listening this morning to the complaints of some members of Congress," Morales told the marchers still gathered in the plaza out front of Congress on Friday. "As if they were so innocent, just because yesterday you rejected those that won't accompany this process of change."
Morales himself is Bolivia's most famous street protester, having risen to power leading coca growers highway blockades to protest U.S.-backed eradication programs.
Morales accused opposition lawmakers of blocking "more than 100" of his proposed bills.
"If our demands aren't answered, there will be protests," he said.
If approved by voters, Morales' constitution would outline a detailed bill of rights and considerable autonomy for the country's 36 indigenous groups, long shut out of power by the country's white elite.
Opposition leaders say the charter places Indians above the rest of the population and fails to address demands for autonomy from four eastern states, which are fighting Morales' land redistribution plan and want to keep more of the region's gas revenues.
The tensions between the two factions boiled over in Thursday's raucous session, where the few opposition politicians who made it inside the hall stood on their desks and shouted in frustration at cheering lawmakers from the ruling party.
Opposition leaders on Friday declared the session a farce, and vowed to fight against Morales' proposed constitution.
"The world should know first hand about this outrage, which is nothing more than a coup," said Jorge Quiroga, head of the conservative party Podemos. "Evo Morales has renounced his status as a democratically elected president."


Updated : 2021-04-15 04:39 GMT+08:00