Bolivians capitalize on smokescreen

Dan Grech Sep 11, 2007


Doug Krizner: For more than a hundred years, Bolivia has had two capitals. The town of Sucre is judicial seat and the constitutional capital. La Paz is home to the legislative and executive branches of government.

Now, there’s a movement to centralize things in Sucre. It’s prompted mass demonstrations and paralyzed the government of President Evo Morales. Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports from the Americas Desk at WLRN.

Dan Grech: The idea of moving Bolivia’s capital to Sucre has its critics, including George Washington University Professor Kevin Healy. He says for starters, it would be terribly expensive.

Kevin Healy: Sucre is a rather small city. You’d have to build a lot of new buildings to house all these employees, and that would require huge investments in construction.

Healy says Bolivia’s elite are pushing the proposal as a smokescreen. They fear President Morales will redistribute their land to the poor.

So Healy says they’re pressing for a transfer of capital cities to distract Morales from his more radical reforms.

Healy: They are encouraging Sucre to do this to generate another ally on their side that would oppose the government and perhaps be for the kinds of things that they want.

So far, this wag the dog strategy is working. Street protests in Sucre have gotten so violent, the Bolivian government has postponed writing a new constitution for a month until things simmer down.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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