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Opinion: Indians still second-class citizens in Bolivia

"Highland and Amazon peoples compose almost two-thirds of Bolivia's population, the highest proportion of Indians in the hemisphere. (It's as if the United States had 160 million Apaches, Hopis and Iroquois.) And while native people are no longer forcibly sprayed with DDT for bugs and are today allowed into town squares, Bolivian apartheid - a 'pigmentocracy of power' - continues.

Indians are barred from swimming pools at some clubs, for example; they are still 'peones' on eastern haciendas little touched by land reform. In La Paz, I was walking through the fashionable South Zone beside an Aymaran woman, Ftima, when another Bolivian viciously pushed her off the sidewalk. She wasn't shocked by the sentiment, but she was amazed that the man had been willing to touch her. Meanwhile, Bolivia's energy-rich eastern states are agitating for "autonomy" in a thinly disguised effort to deprive the poor Indian west of oil and gas revenues.

What is to be done to prevent a collapse in Bolivia? The answer, of course, must begin with Bolivians themselves. Elites here must recognize that the country's dark-skinned social movements are stronger than any political party or president and will not go away. Any lasting solution must shift real power to Bolivia's poor majority."

Get the Story:
William Powers: Poor Little Rich Country (The New York Times 6/11)

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