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Bolivians Back Constitutional Reforms


Voters in Bolivia have approved constitutional changes that would give the indigenous majority more political leverage and allow President Evo Morales to run for a second term later this year.

Television exit polls indicated the new constitution passed Sunday with about 60 percent of the vote. Official results were pending.

Bolivian President Evo Morales told a cheering crowd in La Paz that a new country is being founded for all Bolivians. President Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and is popular among the poor.

The revised constitution would create a new Congress with seats reserved for Bolivia's smaller indigenous groups. It also calls for the land holdings of the white and mixed-race farmers of the gas-rich eastern provinces to be limited.

People in the eastern provinces opposed the new constitution, saying it does not recognize their demands for greater autonomy.

The new constitution would allow Mr. Morales to seek a second, five-year term in a general election in December. He was elected in 2005.

The constitution would also embrace indigenous faiths, recognizing and honoring the Andean earth deity, Pachamama, in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Mr. Morales is among a group of socialist leaders in South America who have reformed their constitutions in recent years to extend their rule and exert greater control over natural resources.

In 1999, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won approval for a new constitution and Ecuador's Rafael Correa did the same last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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