What May 4th Means
May 1, 2008, 2:19 am
Filed under: Latin America | Tags: , , , , ,

On May 4th 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the Inter Caestera Divinae, a papal bull which gave Spanish kingdoms jurisdiction of nearly all of the ‘New World’. Upon the suggestion of Columbus, the pope declared that Spain’s demarcation would be one hundred leagues west of any of the Cape Verde Islands or of the Azores. No doubt, Portugal was upset with this announcement and protested that Spain had been given too much land.

On June 7, 1494, the two great powers came together to sign the Treaty of Tordesillas which renegotiated the demarcation and drew a new line 1300 miles west of the Azores. All lands west of the line were granted to Spain and all lands east of the line were to belong to Portugal (If you have ever wondered why most Latin Americans speaks Spanish while Brazilians speaks Portuguese, the Treaty of Tordesillas is your answer).

This agreement between the two nations would have terrible consequences in Latin America and since that time, the continents white minority have ruled with impunity and ferocity. For more than 500 years, the whole of Latin America has been controlled by the ancestors of the Spanish and Portuguese, to the detriment of millions of indigenous and Africans, the latter brought over as slaves. One should not be surprised that these elite are not willing to relinquish their power.

Unfortunately, democracy has somewhat limited the ability to treat the countries of Latin America as their own personal possessions and the 2005 election of Aymara Indian Evo Morales is a wake up call to the whites that the indigenous are prepared to reclaim what was once theirs. Rather than accepting this outcome, the elite in Bolivia are seeking autonomy for their Departments. Their autonomy referendum is slated for May 4th, and much like Inter Caestera Divinae in 1493, they seek to keep as much as possible in the hands of the Spanish as possible. They will not accept the fact that the Morales government wants to redistribute land to the landless, land which is in the hands of a small minority.

I will be watching the wires closely on May 4th and while no international organizations will accept the May 4th referendum (here) it is important to see how things will develop in this long neglected country. Al-Jazeera does a full report on the autonomy issue. I just hope what I wrote gives the issue a bit more context!

Part 1

Part 2


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