The region of Santa Cruz in Bolivia represents the more industralized and modern part of the nation. It has a high percent of people who take pride in their European ancestry in contrast to most of Bolivia which contains a high number of those from indgenous heritage. The past weekend, a referendum was held in Santa Cruz which produced an overwhelming majority voting in favor of some form of autonomy from the central government. Reuben Costas, a self proclaimed “governor” of Santa Cruz heralded the vote as representing a blow against the central government of Morales which he believes is attempting to tap the rich resources of the area as part of a plan for redistribution of wealth.
Evo Morles represents an important turning point in the history of Bolivia being the first one of indigenous background to gain the presidency. He most probably made serious tactical mistakes by cozing up to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who frightens many parts of the Bolivian middle class as well as intellectuals who ware witnessing the growing destruction of democracy in Venezuela. Morales failed to reach out to reasonable elements of the Santa Cruz middle class who were turned off by his rhetoric.
The result is a fragmentation of Bolivia. Morales might well back down from some of his demands and create a new coalition of those supporting some form of redistribution of wealth in Bolivia. It might not be exactly what Morales desires, but it would avoid creating conditions of chaos and disunion. Chavez is not a model who will gather support within the Bolivian middle class.