|It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that even in what it has long regarded as its own "backyard" Washington appears to be losing the respect or fear awarded a hegemonic power and is instead being politely ignored.|
When both Evo Morales and his adversaries cried victory in the "recall referendum" on 10 August 2008, it was widely predicted that an already critical situation in Bolivia would get worse. Two months later, with the eastern half of the country in chaos and dozens dead, there is real fear in South American capitals that Bolivia could be on the verge of territorial disintegration and civil war.
The Bolivian president's winning margin in the recall vote - he received 67.4% - encouraged him quickly to announce a further referendum for 7 December to push though Bolivia's new constitution, the product of intense and divisive debate in a special assembly in the city of Sucre in 2006-07. This would allow immediate second-term presidential re-election, extend state control over the economy (particularly the oil-and-gas sector), and legally empower the country's indigenous majority. However, the prefects from the resource-rich eastern departments of Tarija, Beni, Santa Cruz and Pando - the media luna that constitutes a territorial block of opposition to the Morales government in La Paz - also had their mandates ratified in the recall vote and came out fighting.
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