December 23, 2007

Is The Constitution Legal or Illegal?

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According to Angus Reid Global Monitoring service, "Many people in Bolivia reject the proposed body of law drafted by their Constituent Assembly, according to a poll by Equipos Mori. 48 per cent of respondents think the new Constitution—which has not yet entered into force—is illegal."

Here are the numbers:

Polling Data

Do you think the National Constitution approved by the Constituent Assembly is legal or illegal?





Not sure


Source: Equipos MORI
Methodology: Interviews with 1,100 adult Bolivians, conducted from Dec. 1 to Dec. 6, 2007. Margin of error is 3.5 per cent.

Coming from Mori, I tend do take the numbers for what they are. I mean, what Mori does is poll people in the three largest cities in Bolivia, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. I argue that these results can be a bit skewed, because there is a significant difference between how the people in these cities think and how people in other smaller cities and smaller towns think. In other words, there is a significant regional difference that is not being accounted for. It is not just enough to ask crucenos, people from the Chaco region, Vallegrandinos, and others might not think the same. However, all differences aside, the numbers are better than nothing, right?

PS. I just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a successful and healthy 2008. I will be without internet connection for the next week or so. So, until next year! And thank you for visiting MABB!

December 21, 2007

The New Government's Constitution

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This is the preamble of the new government's constitution. It starts, indeed, before colonial times. It starts at the very beginning, the creation...

Click on the title above to read the entire document. It's worth a read, really.

December 15, 2007

Bolivia: New Draft Constitution and Regional Autonomy

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Today, December 15, 2007, will be an historical day for Bolivia. The president of the Constitutional Assembly has turned in the newly drafted and approved Bolivian Constitution to the Vicepresident. This has been a long and hard road for MAS and the Morales government. A road that threatened to end in an abyss, had the government not pushed its will, disregarding the participation of the opposition.

It was today, as well, that the departamento of Santa Cruz, primarily, along with Tarija, Pando and Beni, declared their autonomy from the central government. This autonomy implies a certain independence in decision making and management of the resources within the department.

Tensions are high however, due to the government's unwillingness to accept the departamentos moves and vice-versa. The government has been rejecting rumors that it was planning, among other things, an autogolpe (or fujigolpe), a curfew or a military take over of Santa Cruz.

Miguel (Pronto*) has an interesting take on the legality of these events.

"Technically, of course, none of the autonomic statutes are 'legal'

The next days promise to be interesting, to say the least.

December 11, 2007

A Closer Look at the New Constitution

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Miguel from Pronto* takes a closer look at the Constitution approved by MAS. He says: "Even w/o an opposition present (whether through boycott or intimidation), assembly delegates couldn’t agree on 8 articles (out of 408), which are still on the table. Thus, it’s still unclear what the final draft will look like."

Take a look!

December 10, 2007

Morales And His Party Approve Their Constitution

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The MAS and Morales approved their Constitution yesterday, December 9, 2007. After a marathon session of around 16 hours (or more, for what I can tell). The image above was taken by Mario Ronald from Palabras Libres, who has been blogging directly from Oruro. Checkout his images and podcasts, their phenomenal.

As we've already said, the opposition was virtually not present and the lack of debate characterized the entire session. However, Doria Medina (UN) was there making observations and suggestion, which can be read in the record, I guess. Other than that, the masistas flew over the approval with an alarming dexterity. There were 164 of 255 assembly members present, and the text has 411 articles.

As Pronto* already pointed out, there are changes to the current system. For example, there will be four branches of government or powers, executive, legislative, judicial and electoral. The National Electoral Court (CNE) has been elevated to a government branch rang. Congress will remain bicameral, but the number of deputies and senators will vary. The senate will have 36 rather than 27 members and the lower chamber will have 121 rather than 130 members. The proportionality of representation within congress is an enigma in this moment.

The second electoral round has been introduced in the election of president and vicepresident. However, continuous and indefinite reelection is not in (not yet). To be president a Bolivian born person has to be at least 30 years old.

A recall mechanism has been introduced for all elected offices, at the local and national levels.

On the judicial front, communitarian justice has been given the same status as ordinary justice. The justice system's regulatory organ will be made up of judges and communitarian justice 'officials'. Justices will be elected.

Officials of the electoral court will be designated by Congress, two of which will have to be representatives of the indigenous peoples.

The use of the 2/3 voting threshold to encourage negotiation and agreement will be replaced by the simple majority or what they call, absolute majority.

Check out Miguel's (Pronto*) post on the same topic.

Other things to consider:

The final approval will depend on the next three referendums and is expected by the government for the end of 2008. First the recall referendum has to be carried out. This'll be the one asking the people if they are with Evo or against him. The second referendum (not sure if these two will be at the same time) will be the one asking at what should be the size of large property that people will be allowed to have before the state takes it away (5000 or 10000 hectares). The third referendum will aim at asking the people to approve or discard the new constitution. Only after that, if the new Constitution is approved it will be put in force. So we have at least one more year to go.

December 08, 2007

Morales And His Party MAS To Approve Their Constitution

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The government and his party, MAS, will approve today after six pm their Constitution. The Assembly's board of directors decided last night to meet at Oruro's Technical University and go ahead with the vote. The opposition is not present.

The text is planned to be revised and in detail (it means actually article by article) approved in a record time of around 3 hours. Some assembly members have said though they will need 16 hours to approve the whole document. The assembly will not discuss each article but they will be put into thematic blocks, to save time.

December 07, 2007

Bolivian Constitutional Assembly: Newest Developments

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The newest developments in the Constitutional Assembly barullo (mess, confusion) are interesting to observe and consider.

For example, in the last two days, President Morales has decided to challenge his opponents to a recall vote (in Spanish, referendum revocatorio), while he gets ready to approve his Constitution on December 14 in Chapare, Cochabamba. This is Morales' own region, where support for him is overwhelming. His opponents are the seven Prefectos of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Beni, Pando, Sucre, La Paz and Tarija. For the record, they all readily accepted his challenge today. However, to put these development into perspective, there are a couple of things to consider.

The condition the Prefectos are asking for are for Morales to freeze the Constituent Assembly and leave without effect the recently approved senior pension, Renta Dignidad. They argue, these things should be resolved after the referendum. Some Prefectos are reacting skeptical. Why this move now?

Morales has said he is not afraid of the people. He is confident he'll win. Once he does, he said he'll press on with the changes to impose his agenda. He is also said he will accept any decision coming out of the referendum. Even, if it is unfavorable to him. However, for him to be removed, around 54% + one vote of the people would have to vote against him.

On the one hand, 1,544,374 (from 2005) + 1 voters must choose to remove Morales from office. If the vote is just a simple up or down vote, he could be removed from office. But if the vote includes more choices, such as the Prefectos, then it will be virtually impossible to reach the number cited above.

I cannot really figure it out what would be the best formula for Morales to use, assuming he wants to stay in power. One question could be, are you with me or against me. But, with that he will not be assuring his victory.

I guess we will know once he sends his proposed law calling for the referendum.

Meanwhile, preparations are under way to approve his Constitution without the presence of the opposition. I am thinking, if he approves his Constitution, why call the referendum? Unless that is a demand or a condition to convince some skeptics to join the vote in Chapare next December 14. That would mean, he would have the upper hand by having a Constitution and using the referendum to consolidate his government.

Sorry, for the rumbling, I am just thinking out loud.

December 04, 2007

Update on the Constitutional Assembly Struggle

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As you surely know by now, the Morales government approved its own version of a Constitution last November 24, with the help of its allies and the absence of the opposition. This happened in the security of a military academy, outside the city of Sucre, and in the thick of wide protests and violent clashes between citizens of Sucre and security forces. In the aftermath, the government declared victory for having approved a Constitution, while the opposition declared state of alert, civil disobedience and national hunger strikes.

Relative peace has returned to the cities. However, four departments have started hunger strikes. Around 70 people have set up strike posts in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, led by Conalde (Comite Nacional de Defensa de la Democracia) . The leaders expect this number to increase significantly by the end of this week. In Santa Cruz alone, the strikers are expected to reach 250.

Meanwhile, the Prefects (Governors) of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Beni and Tarija, have started a tour to the US and some European nations to denounce what they call the authoritarian tendencies of the Morales government. In a press conference in Miami, the four Prefects expressed their concerns over the alleged illegal actions of the government and the MAS faction in the Constitutional Assembly, through which democracy is in danger. They are asking the government, in a very public manner, to include the Catholic Church or an international organization, to mediate. Their next stop is the OAS and the United Nations.

As far as the assembly is concerned, the opposition has said they will not accept the moving of it to another city. Eight of the 16 political forces, PB, MIR, AAI, Camino al Cambio, Podemos, MNR-A3, MNR and CN, have decided to stay in Sucre and some will even continue working on their own Constitution.

The government has decided to push its Constitution to the last consequences. At the moment, they are trying to convince opposition assembly members to cross over the isle. MAS needs 23 more votes to obtain a 2/3 super majority in the assembly. Were MAS to obtain these votes, things would be much easier. Alternatively, the MAS or the government plans to go ahead with the change of seat to Oruro or Cochabamba and the approval of the entire text in a marathon session expected to be the last day (December 14). However, since three are some issues that cannot be resolved, the MAS is expected to take those issues, such as the indefinite reelection of the president, to a referendum. This would delay the approval of the Constitution for about four more months.