Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen (Labour):
(...) I have just returned from
The politicians took an early opportunity to raise an important issue for them and, in turn, I shall raise it today. They expressed their deep concern about the UK Government's recent decision to require Bolivian citizens wishing to visit the
It was an interesting and exciting time to be visiting
President Morales himself is the first indigenous Bolivian president, having been elected to a five-year term of office. In August 2008, he won a recall referendum with 67 per cent of the vote and, on 25 January this year, he called a further referendum on the text of a new constitution. Participation in this was over 90 per cent and international observers confirmed that it was conducted freely and fairly. The "yes" option won by over 61 per cent of the valid votes counted. The number of politicians now in favour of the constitution stands at 73 per cent because the opposition parties have split and 12 per cent of those opposition politicians have pledged to support the Government in their aims for constitutional change. Of course the implementation of the constitution will not be plain sailing and opposition will undoubtedly continue, especially from Podemos, the main opposition party. However, once the genie is out of the lamp, things can never be quite the same again. The hopes and aspirations of those who never before felt that they counted have been raised beyond their wildest dreams. As the vice-president put it:
"There has been a recognition by the indigenous people that they can now be anything they want to be".
The Morales Government will have to move as swiftly as they are able to enact their promises because of these high expectations.
A key issue for the
in other words, renegotiating existing contracts. Last Wednesday, we visited the gas plant of BG Bolivia, La Vertiente, in the Tarija district. The plant has been nationalised by the Government, which means that the Bolivian state now owns 51 per cent of it. The Bolivian Government have established a new national company whose duty is to oversee gas extraction. However, we were told that there are not enough people employed to carry out this task properly, which hampers negotiations and creates frustrations. A great deal of suspicion in
President Morales has met personally with BG Bolivia representatives on a number of occasions and asked for a further meeting in the near future. It is to be hoped that this is a positive position from which a new and positive relationship can develop. Perhaps the Minister can comment on this.
In the time available, it has been possible to give only a flavour of