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Bolivia turns back time ... of colonialism

Picture of the clock of the Bolivian Congress in La Paz, taken on June 25, 2014 which was altered to run counterclockwise, in homage to the people of the southern hemisphere. AFP PHOTO/Jorge Bernal

LA PAZ: Bolivia’s leftist government is turning back the clock. Or, more precisely, turning it backward.

The government this week flipped the clock on the Congress building so that, though accurate, the hands now turn to the left, a direction known elsewhere as counterclockwise.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca announced the move Tuesday, saying it was only logical that a clock in the Southern Hemisphere should turn in the opposite direction of one in the Northern Hemisphere.

The President of Congress Marcelo Elio Wednesday called the reform “a clear expression of the de-colonization of the people” under President Evo Morales, who became the country’s first indigenous president when he won office in 2005 and is up for re-election in October.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia said the government was thinking about similarly modifying all clocks at public institutions.

He recalled that during an open-air Cabinet meeting, Choquehuanca put a stick in the ground and showed that the sun’s shadow rotated counterclockwise around it. Garcia called the display “mind-opening.”

Political opponents denounced the move.

Opposition lawmaker Norma Pierola said the government “wishes to change the universal laws of time.”

Samuel Doria Medina, the cement and fast-food magnate expected to be Morales’ main challenger in October, called the switch a sign “that things are regressing.’”

Victor Hugo Cardenas, a former vice president and, like Morales, a member of the Aymara people, said it’s true that when the Aymara meet, they form a circle and greet each other in counterclockwise order.

But he said Morales’ clock reform, announced to coincide with the hemisphere’s winter solstice, elevates that vision “to the ridiculous for political ends.”

Morales has made other attempts to shed colonial influence, giving native Andean beliefs equal weight with Christianity.

His friend and ally, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, made a similar shift in 2006, redesigning his nation’s flag so a galloping white horse featured on it faces left instead of right.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2014, on page 11.

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