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February 4, 2009

Bolivia and its new constitution

On January 25th, Bolivia held a referendum to adopt a new national constitution, one that dramatically shifts the country, reversing discriminatory practices and granting many rights and self-determination to the 36 indigenous nations within Bolivia. After a lengthy count, officials announced that the referendum passed with over 60% of the vote. Much political and legal work remains to implement the changes, but soon most of the country's natural resources will be state-owned, land ownership will be capped at 12,000 acres, and Morales will be able to run for a second term. Challenges still lie ahead, as Bolivia remains South America's poorest country, and - after recently expelling all agents the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency - it has lost preferred trade status with the United States. President Evo Morales welcomed the constitutional win by saying "Here begins the new Bolivia", claiming the changes would work to "decolonize" Bolivia. (29 photos total)

A Bolivian Wiphala indigenous flag (this one representing the Qulla Suyu region of the Inca Empire) is held high during a protest march towards La Paz, Bolivia on October 20, 2008. Thousands of supporters of President Evo Morales marched toward La Paz to pressure congressmen to pass a law for a referendum vote to approve a new constitution. (REUTERS/Daniel Caballero)

Supporters of President Evo Morales marching above the city of La Paz, Bolivia on October 20, 2008. La Paz is Bolivia's capital and largest urban area, home to over 1.5 million people, living at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. (REUTERS/David Mercado) #

Residents from El Alto watch people marching in support of a constitutional referendum vote, near La Paz, Bolivia on October 20, 2008. (REUTERS/David Mercado) #

Constitutional reform supporters walk along a highway to join a march near the village of San Antonio, Bolivia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

Bolivia President Evo Morales listens during an interview in New York City, Wednesday Sept. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) #

Thousands of rural workers and union members, take part in a "peaceful, historic" march starting in Caracollo, Bolivia, some 200 km from La Paz, on October 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

Supporters of Bolivia's President Evo Morales march towards La Paz, in the village of San Antonio, Bolivia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

The shadow of a helicopter is seen beside supporters of a referendum on a new constitution proposed by Bolivia's President Evo Morales, heading towards La Paz, Bolivia on Monday, Oct. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/ Juan Karita) #

A supporter of president Evo Morales walks upon his arrival to the village of Patacamaya, Bolivia, on the third day of a march to the country's capital of La Paz, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

Supporters of constitutional reform gather in the El Alto outskirts of La Paz, October 20, 2008. (REUTERS/Gaston Brito) #

A man holds up a copy of Bolivia's new Constitution Project and a Bolivian flag while marching towards La Paz in El Alto, Monday, Oct. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

Before the march to La Paz, clashes between supporters of Morales and those seeking more autonomy had taken place in several provinces, including Pando, where 19 indigenous people were killed. In this photo, members of the Santa Cruz Youth Union (Unión Juvenil Cruceñista or UJC), a neo-fascist group, fight with others in Tiquipaya , 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Santa Cruz, September 13, 2008. (REUTERS/Bruno Domingos) #

A farmer who is seen at a roadblock during a pro-government protest in Tiquipaya, 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Santa Cruz, September 14, 2008. Bolivia's government and rightist rivals on Sunday sought to defuse a deep political crisis after deadly protests prompted martial law in Pando province where nearly 30 people were killed. (REUTERS/Bruno Domingos) #

A dust cloud covers the mining city of Oruro, Bolivia at dawn, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008. Bolivian mines have been freezing operations as falling metal prices have been crippling the industry. Bolivia's new constitution will nationalize all idle lands, gas, oil and mineral resources. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

A farmer looks at sheared vicunas moments before they were released back into the wild in the Andean village of Patoko, Bolivia, Friday, Nov. 7, 2008. The vicuna is one of two wild South American camelids which live in the highland areas of the Andes and had been hunted by poachers and farmers in the past for its fine wool. This camelid became an endangered species in Bolivia but its population has been increasing since 2000 when a project between Germany and Bolivia began helping poor farmers to sell the fine wool to Italian and Japanese fashion markets, without killing the animal. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

Farmers shear a vicuna in the Andean village of Patoko, Bolivia, Friday, Nov. 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri) #

A peasant spreads out coca leaves to dry in the sun in Asunta, Bolivia, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Bolivia's President Evo Morales rejected a request from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to fly anti-narcotics missions over Bolivia. The Bush administration then moved to suspend trade preferences to Bolivia in response. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) #

Bolivian miners take part in a demonstration at the Murillo square, in front of the National Congress in La Paz, on October 20, 2008, demanding the approval of a referendum on a new constitution. (AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images) #

Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales gather at Murillo square in front of the presidential palace in La Paz on October 21, 2008 a day after pro and anti government congressmen agreed to call the referendum on the new constitution. (AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Bolivian Aymara priest performs a traditional ritual during a demonstration demanding the approval of a referendum on a new constitution at the Murillo square, in front of the National Congress in La Paz, on October 20, 2008. (AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images) #

Bolivian rappers perform at the ancient village of Tiwanaku, in Bolivia's highlands, on January 31, 2009. Despite widespread harsh feelings towards US policies, Bolivian youths embrace US Hip-Hop culture as a way to vent their anger over historical oppression and exploitation. Through songs that praise President Morales' "democratic revolution" and a claim for social changes, Bolivian rappers believe there is no contradiction between their "gringo" look and the anti-imperialist slant. (AFP PHOTO/Joao Padua) #

President Evo Morales hands out copies of the new Constitution during a demonstration outside the governmental palace and after the congress passed the law to call a referendum on it, on October 21, 2008 in La Paz. (José Luis Quintana/AFP/Getty Images) #

Bolivian congressmen sing their national anthem after the approval for a referendum on a new, socialist constitution at the National Congress in La Paz on October 21, 2008. (DANIEL MIRANDA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Two Aymara indigenous women walk through La Paz Golf Club, as the snowy summit of Illimani appears in the background on November 26, 2008. La Paz Golf Club is considered to be the highest in the world, around 11,000 feet above sea level. Founded in 1912, the Club sits in the upscale district of southern La Paz, and its exclusive facilities receive the local elite. (JOAO PADUA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Marta Mamani, an Aymara indigenous woman, hits a drive during her work break at La Paz Golf Club on November 26, 2008. (JOAO PADUA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Aymara Indians line up to vote at a polling station in Walata Chico, Bolivia, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. Bolivians are voting on proposed changes to their constitution, aimed at remaking the country on behalf its indigenous majority and allowing Morales to run for a second consecutive five-year term. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) #

An indigenous woman is transported on a wheelbarrow to mark her ballot at a polling station in El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz January 25, 2009. (REUTERS/ Enrique Castro-Mendivil) #

An Aymara Indian women casts her vote in a rural school in Walata Chico, Bolivia, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) #

A man casts his ballot in a referendum on a new constitution at a voting center in El Alto, Bolivia, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. (Juan Karita/AP Photo) #