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Bolivians set to vote on new constitution

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"In theory, a constitution is a pact between all of society," says Carlos Toranzo, a political analyst at the Latin America Institute of Social Research in La Paz. "There was no agreement. After Jan. 25, we will have more violence."

A new constitution would be a major victory for Morales and fellow indigenous Bolivians who, for decades, have sought to rewrite the nation's rule book. It includes over 400 articles that run the gamut from changing legislative structures to nationalizing the country's gas reserves, but the most overreaching theme is to empower the nation's indigenous. It will, for example, recognize that there are 36 different ethnic groups. That means that a person can introduce a complaint to a government office in his or her native language; it will now be the government's responsibility to understand. It also gives them greater representation in Congress and a new degree of autonomy, including the right to implement their own community justice.

But battles raged over the economic and political issues in the charter, including more state control over natural resources, limits on how much land one can own, regional autonomy, and how many terms a president is allowed to serve. More than 40 people have been killed because of political conflict since Morales took office, according to the Human Rights Foundation in New York.

In order to draw up the final version, the government compromised with the opposition on key points. Voters Sunday could choose to limit land holdings to 5,000 hectares, but the rule will not be retroactive as long as owners prove their land is not idle. And Morales will only be able to run for office one more time – an important victory for critics who say Morales, a strong ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, is simply seeking to consolidate his power.

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