September 03, 2006

Alarm in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly Process

MABB © ®

There is a current state of alarm in Bolivia. The barely month old Constituent Assembly process has entered into a crisis. At the heart of the problem is the approval of the code of internal regulations, and more specifically, the parts dealing with the nature of the assembly and the voting procedures.

In the last weeks, a polarization of positions has been brewing at the CA. On the one side, the MAS constituents, together with the government and many smaller constituent groups aligned with the government and MAS, have been trying to push for the CA to be declared "originating" and for all the decisions to be voted with an absolute majority. On the other side, the opposition (Podemos, UN, MNR and CN), and other organizations such as the civic committees, have been arguing for the CA to follow the rule of law and for all the decisions to be taken by a 2/3 vote rule. These issues have proven to be more polarizing thant they seemed with the government and the MAS constituents digging in their heels and not bowing to compromise, and the opposition accusing the government of wanting to control power.

On Friday, las week, MAS decided to go for it and force the approval of the internal regulations code. The MAS, who holds the presidency of the CA, started the procedure to start the voting process by reading the text of the code. Some members of the opposition got up and walked to the front of the assembly where the presidency is seated and the text was being read (the CA is taking place in a theater) to try to stop it. In that instant one of the members of MAS (Roman Loayza) tried to clear the area, and before he could do anything he made a false step and fell 2 meters (6.5 feet) down to the pit. In light of the chaos, the opposition decided to leave. However, the MAS members decided to continue with the vote and they approved the code with 139 votes out of 255.

As a result, the parties have radicalized even more. The president yesterday, in a speech, asked the people to rise and defend the assembly process from the opposition. Meanwhile, several organized indigenous groups decided to go to Sucre to observe the CA from a close distance. Many threats have been issued to the assembly members, if they don't do what they are told to by the "people". At the same time, the opposition has decided to meet in Santa Cruz. To that meeting are also going the civic committees of Tarija, Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz. There is a real antagonist air in this meeting, because the most radical position would be to seced from the country if the government doesn't stop its maneuvers to control power.