June 22, 2007

Multinational or Multicultural

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The Bolivian Constituent Assembly (CA) is going through a critical phase. All the commissions are rushing through to finish up their proposals to meet the July deadline. The constitutions must be ready by August 6. At least that is what the law calls for. Nonetheless, the work is tenuous and slow. There are very few commissions ready with their texts.

The commission which is supposed to come up with the 'vision' of the country is having very public problems. The members cannot agree on whether Bolivia should be a multinational or a multicultural country. That is why there are basically two very different proposals. The commision is supposed to present two proposals, one belonging to the relative majority and the other to the minority. After the votes were counted at the time of approval, the opposition (Podemos, MNR and others) complained that MAS, which has a relative majority, concocted a scheme to leave the opposition's proposal out of consideration. Allegedly, MAS and its allies drafted two proposals, and presented them as two separate groups, one with enough votes to call it majority and the other with enough votes to be called minority. Apparently, the two proposals are remarkably similar.

It is for that reason that this commission is making headlines. The opposition is very angry because they feel they were left out. They are even threatening with legal action if they are not taken into account. As a result, the work of this commission has been put into doubt. Will it finish its work on time? The MAS says yes, the opposition cries foul!

But, what is wrong with a multinational country? Apparently nothing, other than at the same time Bolivia will be defined as a unitary country. These two definitions seem to be in contradiction. How can a Unitary country be multinational? Specially problematic is if we consider that Bolivia is already a pretty decentralized country. Additionally, let's assume decentralization is reverted (any law can be reverted, right?). There is not doubt that there will be autonomic regions, departments, nations, tribes, etc., etc., etc. We know that because there is a commission working on the issue of autonomy as well.

Also, what is wrong with multicultural. It is a concept that encompasses diversity, period. Multicultural and autonomous does not contradict each other.


Tambopaxi said...

Well, but Miguel, this gets back to question submitted in your earlier posting: If Bolivia approves a multicultural, multinational arrangement, you have by definition, multiple nations.

While "nations" may be understood in the cultural sense (i.e., tribes) people seem to be thinking double connotation in Bolivia, that is, tribe-wise, and in terms of, well, countries. Frankly, I just don't see how you could have a modern nation-state (a single polity) as it's understood in the U.S. or Europe, based on current MAS thinking....

miguel said...

Well, yes, I agree with you. It seems contradictory: a unitarian country (i.e. centrally administered), but multicultural and multinational? How is that supposed to work?

On the nations issue, the thinking is relatively correct, in my opinion. Some indigenous groups in Bolivia are nations. Nation being defined as "Members of a "nation" share a common identity, and usually a common origin, in the sense of ancestry, parentage or descent. A nation extends across generations, and includes the dead as full members."

Now state is a different thing, defined as "A state is a political association with effective dominion over a geographic area. It usually includes the set of institutions that claim the authority to make the rules that govern the people of the society in that territory, though its status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it."

So it is possible to have nations within states. However, what MAS is proposing is, again, somewhat contradictory. It wants to define Bolivia as a unitary, multinational and multicultural country. The combination of unitary and multi... is what makes me think. Specially, as I say it on my post, if they want autonomy for the indigenous regions. How will that function? Centrally controlled, but each group will have full autonomy?