The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

For Bolivia, a provocative left turn of the clock as government rebels at rightist timepieces

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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.

___

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.

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