Bolivia Morales turns to bill to push constitution
September 6, 2008 - Reuters

By Carlos Quiroga

LA PAZ, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Saturday he was sending a bill to Congress calling for a referendum on a new pro-indigenous constitution reviled by his right-wing opponents, after a court blocked his earlier decree ordering a vote.

Emboldened by a landslide victory in a recall vote last month, Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, wants to push through a new constitution that would give more clout to the Andean nation's poor indigenous majority.

It would also undermine autonomy campaigns by opposition governors of resource-rich provinces who are deadlocking his reforms, and would enable Morales to run for consecutive terms.

The nation's electoral court sent a letter to the government on Monday saying the vote could not take place because Morales had called it by presidential decree rather than by law.

"So the (electoral court) has no pretexts, we are sending to the national Congress today a bill so that it can be worked on next week and approved," Morales said in a short address at the presidential palace, broadcast on state television.

Morales, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, could have difficulty passing a law in Congress authorizing the vote because the rightist opposition controls the Senate.

"I respectfully call on the national Congress, to the different benches, to approve this bill so that we can all make history by refounding Bolivia, creating a 'plurinational' state."

He said plurinational meant a state "that represents all sectors, diverse cultures and identities, not just indigenous but mestizo ... and some who see themselves as white, with blue blood and green eyes."

Anti-government protesters have held demonstrations and are blocking roads in natural gas-rich regions governed by the opposition, demanding that Morales abandon his push for a referendum.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)