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Bolivia's army declares itself 'socialist'

November 18, 2010 |  1:45 pm

Evo morales bolivia military reuters

The commanding general of Bolivia's army has declared the Andean nation's forces "socialist," "anti-capitalist," and "anti-imperialist," positions that were immediately echoed by President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president.

Gen. Antonio Cueto made the statements Sunday at a ceremony marking the army's 200th anniversary. Cueto said Bolivia's 2009 constitution allows the army to "emerge as a socialist, communitarian institution," according to the EFE news agency (links in Spanish).

"We declare ourselves anti-imperialist because in Bolivia there can exist no external power imposing itself," Cueto said. "We also declare ourselves anti-capitalist because this system is destroying Mother Earth."

Morales, who attended the ceremony using crutches because of recent knee surgery, agreed, saying, "History proves that the army was born with an anti-imperialist position because it's been combating the European empire since 1810." (Link in Spanish.)

Cueto also said Bolivia would never allow a foreign military to establish bases within its territory, making an indirect reference to a stalled plan in Colombia to allow the U.S. armed forces to use bases there. Cueto's words drew criticism and rebuke from former military leaders, reported La Razon, a daily in Bolivia (link in Spanish). One former commander and current opposition senator said the general was taking a partisan position, and therefore was in violation of the Constitution.

The chief of Bolivia's national police, meanwhile, said this week that his agency would remain "apolitical," EFE reported.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: President Evo Morales greets military leaders  Nov. 14 in La Paz, Bolivia. Credit: Reuters

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