August 12, 2007

One Year Evaluation of the Constituent Assembly

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830 articles have been produced by the Constituent Assembly (CA) in one year. The problem is that no decisions have come out on the most important issues, such as the county's vision or the autonomies. These, are the tasks for the next four months, until December 14.

La Razón reports on some of the experiences of the assembly members during the stressful process. For example, there was a woman in Pando who crying asked the assembly to help her with her problem, someone had stolen her bike days before. Or the other funny example is that the association of clowns asked their association to be included in the constitution. Rightfully, they asked, "are we not all equal and have the same rights?"

On to more serious examples, an assembly member tells La Razón that distrust between MAS and the opposition was the rule of the day. In the structure of state commission, MAS had presented an article on the official language. The opposition thought the article was better written and decided to support MAS' article. MAS then, as the majority, voted to remove its own article because the opposition was supporting it.

In the committees of autonomy and on the executive, debate was missing. In the later committee there was no debate at all. The groups worked in separate. No point was discussed and arrived at in consensus.

Another problem, according to La Razòn's article was the lack of experience and basic knowledge on the specific themes of each commission. Some assembly members did not even know how to read and write. For example, on the nations and nation committee, some members had to lecture on the meaning of concepts like nation, nations and state. The assembly members who were not 'up to date' on the issues, had to learn in the process or just miss the sessions or even do what others told them to do. Other problems slowing the process down was the constant interference of consultants advising the members. According to some people, these consultants would interrupt the debate, and even change agreements between the assembly members.

An additional issue was absenteeism. Apparently, the members would take days to go back home. Some others would just take sessions free. Finally, other commissions would debate who would have what job, such as assistants and helpers.

What these article reflects is the many problems such an endeavor means. The lack of expertise has weighed heavily on the assembly, I would say. It has cost it precious time. The lack of seriousness from the part of some members was another factor and the lack of trust, was another factor. Hopefully, this time around, things will improve.


Gringo said...

This description of the assembly can be seen as a microcosm of Bolivia past, Bolivia present, and Bolivia future. It doesn't matter what piece of paper comes or doesn't come out as a Constitution. It will be just a piece of paper, and will be ignored by most. Not until Bolivians overthrow their historical tendencies and have law overrule force will it matter what is on the piece of paper. Not until Bolivians cease squabbling and learn the art of compromise, an English word which we all know has nothing to do with “compromiso,” will anything be accomplished.

The fact that this has been the umpteenth rewriting of the Constitution, common phenomena in Latin America, should sober everyone in the Constituent Assembly. How many in the Constituent Assembly are aware of how many Constitutions Bolivia has had?
What does this suggest to them?

Maybe I am just a cynical gringo. I have worked with Bolivians in Bolivia, Argentina, and the US. I have had great esteem for them. In looking at the governance of Bolivia, past and present, I fear that the result is unfortunately less than the sum of its parts. Can this be changed in the future?

miguel said...

Believe it or not, I agree with you. That cynicism and frustration that I hear in your words resonates in me as well.

However, as we all know, these kind of problems are far from being simple. I think there is a bit of 'path dependency' here. Bolivians have been trying to solve their problems by just re-writing their constitution. But, deep social problems such as racism, corruption and the like, are not solved by constitutions. Perhaps one can outlaw racism, but is it reasonable to think that that law will be applied? So in essence, re-writing the constitution will only solve some problems, not all.

In this manner, I think Bolivian society has to deal with those deeper problems in another way. How? I don't have the slightest idea. Perhaps, a truth commission of some sorts to deal with the injustices of colonialism? or a national dialogue to deal with racism?