TIME Bolivia

Bolivia to Allow Children to Legally Work at Just 10 Years Old

Views From the Capitol As Bolivian Central Bank President Sees 5.5% GDP Growth This Year
Bolivia is set to reduce the child labor minimum wage to 10 years old. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Supporters of a new bill say it will help reduce poverty, but human-rights activists aren't convinced

Bolivian lawmakers have approved new legislation that allows children as young as 10 years old to enter the workforce.

While the minimum age for child workers was previously 14 with no exceptions, the new bill is more flexible and allows children to start “working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and self-employment from age 10,” said Senator Adolfo Mendoza, co-sponsor of the bill, reports AFP.

He emphasized that both the child and a parent or guardian must first voluntarily consent to the work and then seek permission from the public ombudsman.

Critics of the previous law argue that children younger than 14 years old must work to help support their families in the impoverished South American country.

Deputy Javier Zavaleta, co-sponsor of the bill, said he hoped it would help eradicate extreme poverty in the landlocked nation. “Extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor,” he told AFP. “So our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

But human-rights activists disagree.

Jo Becker, children’s-rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, called on Bolivian politicians to abandon the bill in early 2014. “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” she said.

“Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work,” she added. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”

The bill has now been sent to Bolivian President Evo Morales and is expected to be signed into law.

TIME

Bolivia Rebels at Rightist Timepieces, Flips Clock

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

The government this week flipped the clock atop the Congress building so that while it’s accurate, the hands now turn to the left, a direction known elsewhere as counterclockwise.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca announced the modification Tuesday. He said it was only logical that a clock in the Southern Hemisphere should turn in the opposite direction of a Northern Hemisphere clock.

The president of Congress, Marcelo Elio, on 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 is thinking about similarly modifying all clocks at public institutions.

He recalled that during an open-air Cabinet meeting, Choquehuanca placed 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.

TIME photography

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TIME Bolivia

Bolivian Mayor Caught On Camera Groping Woman

The clip, which was was broadcast on Bolivian television, is just the latest in a series of incidents showing the mayor making unwanted advances on women

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The mayor of Bolivia’s largest city was caught on camera groping and kissing women – again.

Percy Fernandez, the Mayor of Santa Cruz, is seen in a new video placing his hand on the thigh of Mercedes Guzman, a journalist from a local television channel.

But this is not the first time that the mayor, recently called by President Evo Morales “the best mayor in Bolivia,” was caught making unwanted advances on women. At least two other instances of his sexual harassment were caught on camera in the past. Two years ago, footage showed him twice touching the bottom of his female City Council president, and in 2010 he forced a kiss upon a female engineer while inspecting a bridge.

“[We consider this] an expression of violence against all Bolivian women, especially because the mayor’s actions have happened before,” said Marcela Revollo, a Bolivian lawmaker.

After increasing public outcry, the 75-year-old mayor sent a video to Santa Cruz media in which he apologized to the journalist for the incident.

“I’m worried that I might’ve disrespected you while you were performing your duties. I apologize again to you and your dignified family,” Fernandez says on the video.

But opposition lawmaker Revollo said that the apology was not enough. She has filed a complaint accusing Fernandez of sexual harassment, sexual violence and discrimination.

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