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Bolivians Ordered to Stay Home for Census
November 21, 2012

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The entire country of Bolivia is under curfew, with nearly 11 million people being told to stay home and await data-gatherers collecting data for the country's first census in 11 years.

President Evo Morales has directed more than 200,000 people, including thousands of teachers and students, to help in the census effort, which involves asking each citizen nearly 50 questions. Road traffic is banned during the census collection, and Morales said that anyone who was not home to receive a census worker would face a heavy fine. The census would be a one-day project in major urban areas and would continue for three days in rural areas.

Tens of thousands of police fanned out across the country to enforce the census and the curfew, after riots in the capital, La Paz, by farmers protesting against the census, the country's 11th overall.

The previous census, done in 2001, listed the population at 8.3 million.

Morales is the first indigenous Bolivian to be elected President of a country in which more than 60 percent of the people are of native descent. Morales, a former llama herder, was elected in 2005 and re-elected four years later. That same year, voters elected indigenous candidates to a clear majority in both houses of parliament and approved a new constitution that gave indigenous groups more autonomy.

Bolivia has a recent history of conflict between its people and its government. The former Spanish colony became independent in 1825, with Simon Bolivar as the first President. The years since have been punctuated by discoveries of great wealth in the form of silver, rubber, salt, and natural gas, and by both peaceful and violent changes in government. In very recent years, the Bolivian government has made waves by assuming control of the country's energy industry.

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