November 25, 2004

A full plate for the Congress

MABB is a registered TM.

The Bolivian Congress has a full plate before them to finish by early next year. Among other important issues to be considered by both chambers, like the Constituent Assembly, the legislative is pressed to finish work on the Hydrocarbons Law (pdf) (Ley de Hydrocarburos), the upcoming municipal elections, the national budget (Presupuesto General de la Nacion or PGN) and the appointment of justices and District Attorneys (DA).

The Hydrocarbons Law is most likely to be postponed to be finished next year. The reasons being the December municipal elections and the PGN. Nevertheless, some work on the energy bill has been finalized. Articles dealing with the ownership of the natural resources; procedures reviving the national oil company; YPFB (Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos) and guidelines for YPFB, were passed by the Deputies Chamber yesterday.

The municipal elections are set to be held on December 5. The legislative is planning a recess so legislators can turn their attention to local issues arising from the elections. For its part, the elections are right on schedule. By December 3, free and paid campaigning is set to stop, the ballots are already in the precincts and elections officials are all ready.

Although some have called for the consideration of the PGN after the elections, the legislative wants to get this issue done before the elections. This is a very ambitious wish but not unlikely. Congress knows that if it doesn't get it done soon and to the liking of the Executive, President Mesa will act, backed by Article 147 of the Constitution, to elevate the project to law. Congress does not have much choice but to work on it.

The issue most likely to be left for early 2005 is the appointments of judges and DAs in the Legislative Branch. Here, Congress is also pressured by the Executive. On the eve of July 31, 2004, Mr. Mesa filled, by a decree (Decreto Supremo), these posts that had been in provisional status for over a decade (read my post on this here). This was the beginning of an ever harshening relations between Congress and the President.