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6.3 Bolivia

In Bolivia, about 2.5 million people speak Quechua, 2.1 million speak Aymara, while Guaraní is only spoken by a few hundred thousand people. Also there are 36 recognized cultures and languages in the country. Although there are no official documents written in these languages, Quechua and Aymara were historically only ever oral languages until fragmented modern attempts at transcription and written standardization. Radio and some television in Quechua and Aymara is produced. However, the constitutional reform in 1997 for the first time recognized Bolivia as a multilingual, pluri-ethnic society and introduced education reform. In 2005, for the first time in the country’s history, an indigenous descendant Aymara, Evo Morales, was elected as President.

Morales began work on his “indigenous autonomy” policy which he launched in the eastern lowlands department on 3 August 2009, making Bolivia the first country in the history of South America to declare the right of indigenous people to govern themselves. Speaking in Santa Cruz Department, the President called it “a historic day for the peasant and indigenous movement”, saying that he might make errors but he would “never betray the fight started by our ancestors and the fight of the Bolivian people”. A vote on further autonomy will take place in referendums which are expected to be held in December 2009. The issue has divided the country.