Sunday, July 22, 2007

La Paz versus Sucre

The geopolitics of Bolivia can be summed up as La Paz versus Sucre and Santa Cruz. (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Hundreds of thousands of Bolivians rallied in La Paz against a proposed measure which would make Sucre the sole capital of Bolivia. Currently, La Paz is the where the president and National Congress hold office while Sucre is the capital in the constitution and seat of the Supreme Court.

The capitals have deep cultural and geographical meanings. Sucre was the former sole capital of Bolivia. During the time of New Spain it was named Ciudad de la Plata de la Nueva Toledo or La Plata for short basically meaning "Silver Town." During the late 1800s; however, the economy shifted from silver mining in eastern and central Bolivia to tin minning in the west. La Paz was the urban center for silver mining by then and in 1898 most of the government moved to the city.

The cultures of the two cities are different. La Paz and the western part of the country are in the highlands, poor, and have a large Indian population. Sucre, the central, and eastern parts of Bolivia range from moderately high up to lowlands, economically better off, have a larger population of mixed blooded and whites, and most importantly tend to vote center-right. La Paz is the center of leftist thought while Sucre is the center for the Catholic Church. Night and day.

Conservative elements have introduced the measure to move the capital back saying Sucre's central location would help unify a divided country. Opponents claim it is merely a measure to kill the proposed changes to the constitution including granting leftist President Evo Morales Hugo Chavez-like powers.

The latest battle between La Paz and Sucre is political, cultural, and geographical. It is not the first battle between regions in Bolivia and it will not be the last.

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