Bolivia approves constitutional draft amid clashes

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SUCRE, Bolivia, Nov 25 (Reuters) The assembly charged with rewriting Bolivia's constitution produced a new constitutional draft amid violent street protests in which at least one person was killed.

The draft for the new constitution, a key campaign promise of leftist President Evo Morales, will need to be discussed in detail and then ratified by a majority of Bolivia's population.

''All the text of the state's constitution has been (approved) unanimously,'' assembly President Silvia Lazarte told reporters yesterday.

The draft was approved mainly with votes from Morales' party as most opposition representatives boycotted the debates to protest moving the assembly to an army compound.

Outside the compound, protesters clashed with police in demonstrations demanding assembly delegates name Sucre Bolivia's ''full capital,'' and move the seat of government and Congress to Sucre from La Paz, a bastion of support for Morales.

Citing doctors from Sucre's Santa Barbara hospital, local radio Erbol reported a 29-year-old man had been killed and many more injured in the protests.

''We hope that calm will return to Sucre,'' Deputy Presidential Minister Sacha Llorenti told the radio station.

Protests over the capital began in August, forcing the assembly, which sits in Sucre, to suspend debates for three months, prompting the assembly's governing body to move sessions to an army facility on Friday.

The protests come amid a power struggle between Morales and his conservative rivals, who want more autonomy for the regions they govern and who also support the capital switch.

Nominally, Sucre is the South American country's capital, but it is home only to the top courts, while the legislature and the seat of government have been in La Paz for over a century.

The rightist opposition renewed its call on Saturday for ''civil disobedience'' in the eastern regions, where anti-government sentiment is strong, and vowed to disregard the new constitution.

Morales' supporters have staged huge protests in recent months opposing calls for the capital's relocation, and thousands of them traveled to Sucre this week pledging to ''defend'' the assembly.

During the campaign that brought him to office nearly two years ago, Morales said the assembly would serve to cast a mold for a new state in which the country's indigenous majority would have a greater say.

Critics say Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president, is governing only for his Quechua and Aymara power base in the west of the country, ignoring the needs of the middle class in urban areas like Sucre and other relatively prosperous cities in the east.

REUTERS SZ VC0855

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