Venezuela's Chávez Pledges Support for Hunger Striking Morales in Bolivia
By James Suggett
April 13th 2009
On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez declared his support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, who went on hunger strike last Thursday to pressure the opposition-controlled Bolivian Senate to pass a constitutionally mandated election law.
Morales had announced that he will skip the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and the summit of the Latin American trade bloc ALBA in Venezuela this week, unless the Bolivian Senate passes the law.
"Keep on going, we are with you. Stay healthy. You know that all of ALBA and all the peoples of our America are with you," Chávez told Morales on a telephone call that was broadcast live on national television on Sunday.
Chávez recounted how seven years ago between April 11-13th, right-wing business leaders allied with the private media and factions of the military had kidnapped him and launched a military coup d'etat, but he was restored to the presidency after massive street demonstrations and a military counter-coup.
"It is the same struggle, Evo, the struggle for true liberation," Chávez said, drawing a parallel between the Bolivian elite, who launched a violent separatist movement against the Morales administration last year, and the Venezuelan elite who carried out the April 2002 coup.
In January, more than 60% of Bolivian voters approved of a new national constitution, which calls for presidential and congressional elections this year and obligates the congress to pass a law governing those elections.
A first draft of the law has been passed, but the process has been delayed by heated debates over the rules regarding a new constitutional requirement that congressional seats be reserved for indigenous representatives and the voting rights of Bolivians living abroad.
Morales accused the opposition legislators of blocking the legislative process and thus contradicting the will of the majority of Bolivians who approved the constitution. He also called on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Organization of American States (OAS) for support.
"I do not seek power for myself, but I do seek power for the people," said Morales to Chávez on Sunday. "The only thing we are doing is defending the democracy and the constitution approved by the Bolivian people."
Chávez and Morales have been allies for several years. Last September, Chávez expelled U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in solidarity with Morales, after Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg for allegedly conspiring with opposition separatists to destabilize the country.