Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivian palace: President Evo Morales signs contract

President Evo Morales is shown the model for the "Big House of the People" 31 Oct 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Evo Morales is shown the model for the "Great House of the People"

Bolivian President Evo Morales has signed the contract to start the building of a new presidential palace.

President Morales said it was inspired by the architecture of the Tiahuanaco civilization of pre-Hispanic Bolivia.

It will replace the current colonial building, in use since the 16th Century.

The new building will be decorated to remind Bolivians - a majority indigenous nation - of their heritage.

President Morales, who has just started his third term in office, said the old building, known as "The Burnt Palace" because it was sacked and burnt during a revolt in 1875, was "full of European symbols and felt as small as a mousehole" .

He said the new palace, which would be called "The Great House of the People", had been designed by Bolivian architects and would be decorated with indigenous motifs to pay homage to Bolivian traditional culture.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The "Burnt Palace" - the current presidential palace in La Paz

It will be built behind the current palace, which will be turned into a museum.

President Morales said the new building was "not a luxury". He said the 29-floor building would also house cabinet meeting rooms and rooms for exclusive presidential use.

The plans for the new palace include a heliport, a centre for indigenous ceremonies and a 1,000-seat auditorium.

It is expected to cost about $36m.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Indigenous Andean spiritual counsellors, known as "Amautas", perform a ritual using incense next to the model of the new palace.

A government spokesman, Joan Ramon Quintana, said the current palace was where "former governments despoiled the Bolivian state of its wealth, its heritage and its memory".

He said that within the building, acts of betrayal, corruption, and murder had occurred - as well as heroic acts.

"The most terrible history was written there as well as the most noble," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The location in La Paz where the new palace will be built.

The new palace is also expected to house a room to celebrate the history and social significance of the coca leaf.

President Morales is a former coca growers' union leader. Coca plays an important role in Andean societies. In addition to its medicinal value - as a stimulant, anaesthetic and appetite suppressant - it has a leading role in social interaction and religious ceremonies.

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