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Bolivia's Morales Begins Hunger Strike

Bolivian President Evo Morales has begun a hunger strike to demand that the nation's Congress pass an electoral law ratifying a date for general elections in December.

The president was quoted Thursday as saying he was starting the strike "to defend the vote of the people." He also accused members of the opposition-led Senate of trying to block the legislation.

The election bill has been held up by demands for an updated voter registry, arguments over whether Bolivians living outside the country should be able to vote, and a dispute over the number of seats in Congress that should be assigned to indigenous groups.

Bolivians recently approved a new constitution that allows Mr. Morales to seek a second, five-year term in December's elections and gives more power to the country's indigenous majority. Mr. Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president. He was elected in 2005.

The new constitution also creates a new Congress and calls for the land holdings of white and mixed-race farmers in gas-rich eastern provinces to be limited.

In a related development, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, voiced his support for President Morales in a statement issued Thursday through a spokesperson.

D'Escoto once served as foreign minister in Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista administration that ruled the country from 1979 to 1990 and fought a civil war against U.S.-funded Contra rebels.