December 15, 2007

Bolivia: New Draft Constitution and Regional Autonomy

MABB © ®

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.


mcentellas said...

Yes. And the US Declaration of Independence was also illegal. ;-)

Tambopaxi said...

Yeah, that's the point.

Analyzing the central government's constitution is a little bit like reading concert program on the Titanic as it went down. While that's going on, passengers and crew are busy bailing out on the other side of the country.

Sending in cops and army only serves to heighten tension and raise the stakes and I have the impression that some of the easterners are only too willing to play the same kind of poker...

Sudden thought: Where are the Venezuelans in all of this?

kevin said...

Agreed on the legally of the Estatutos... but also agree on what the fight for freedom from tryanny is all about?

I personally think the picture of the VP and Dra. Lizarte is a perfect example of the situation... the benevolent ideologos empowering the grupos indigenous. Actually, indivually -this was a great accomplishment for the former Presidenta de Concejal Municiapl de Villa Tunari (Chapare). You can see this in her face and we should say she worked hard for this - unfortuntely for everyone beside the MAS - she was misguided and in the end was told to break the rules to 'get r done'.
If the MAS focused on empowering historically marginalized sectors of Boliva, which most intelligent people agree to, and not screwing Santa Cruz and the economy of Bolivia for years to come with anti-free market policies, then maybe we would be developing ourselves instead of fighting each other.

miguel (mabb) said...

That is the thing. For Morales, development comes with a significant involvement of the central government. The state has to provide for the people. More paternalistic cannot be.

Frank_IBC said...

This is probably a stupid question, but is there a reason why the more "indigenous-looking" men on the Santa Cruz autonomy council are all standing on the far side of the picture and wearing yellow shirts?

Gringo said...

Here are two articles from Gateway Pundit . In his second article he links to one of your articles. (VOTED ON)
In the second article Gateway Pundit links to an article of Alek Boyd of vcrisis, which claims that the constitution that was approved was different from the one that was delivered to Morales, and has screenshots to back up his point.
I leave it for you to investigate.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you or Centellas had pointed this out already, but La Razon 7Dec2007 has a series of articles and opinions about collection and distribution of revenues and autonomy.

For example, Headline "La nueva Constitución es 'unitaria' en la Política Fiscal : La Carta Magna, aprobada en grande, no considera ninguna forma de autonomía tributaria de los niveles del Estado subnacionales."

This article quotes an Argentine law scholar who says the best measure of centralization--decentralization is abilities of central and non-central governments to manage their revenues and expenditures.

This article says the draft constitution completely centralizes tax (and royalty) collection. I think that this is more negotiable than you do, however.

I also think it is possible to decentralize through the central government in some cases, although I recognize this is not ideal. The Law of Popular Participation is a good example. Another example in the United States are court decisions that force states to fund schools equally.


miguel (mabb) said...

Frank_ibc: I don't know. It seems to me it looks that way because of the picture perspective. The photo was taken from one side. Had it been taken from the other side, they would have been front and center.

Gringo: Yes, the constitution handed to Morales was (I am assuming) different than the one approved on Dec. 9. The reason is that after the approval that night, the document was sent to the 'concertation and style'. This commission, after the modifications made to the law, could modify the text as it saw fit. There was a report from one of the newspapers that said, this commission was modifying the text as it liked.

John: Yes, the management of funds are centralized. That is one big reason why the central and departmental governments are and have been fighting for. The Morales government thinks the central government can manage these funds better for the benefit of all the people. The departmental governments tend to benefit its people and not everybody. That is, of course, the government's opinion. If you ask the departmental governments, they argue the central government has proven to be inept to manage funds in a centralized manner. Look at YPFB, for example.

I think the LPP has and still is an outstanding piece of legislation. To a large extent, I think it is one of the reasons why we have MAS in power right now.

Anonymous said...

But you say LPP was an outstanding piece of legislation. Was it passed by a central government or by the departments, one by one?

And Centellas, the Declaration of Independence was illegal, of course. It also was a lie beyond the 1860s, Reconstruction, 1876, and up until federal legislation and soldiers arrived in the South in the 1960s. States' rights do not imply free democratic governments.

But the Equipo Mani survey results are impressive. (See .) The polling methods are not clear, but it appears to me that the government has lost its substantial minorities in the city of Santa Cruz, the department of Santa Cruz, and down in the Chaco.

Good luck.


mcentellas said...


I'll leave aside the detail that the Declaration of Independence was *not* the US constitution. But you raise a good point. Then again, everything the Nazis did was legal (to push the extreme form of the "legal vs. right" argument).

About the LPP. It was, in fact, "imposed" by the central government over the objections of many of the same people who are objecting to MAS today. It was also, btw, impossed by Goni.

Anonymous said...

Centellas, you brought up the Declaration of Independence, at the top of the comments for this post. I knew that you knew the difference and assumed you were comparing the declarations of autonomy to the 1776 document. Sounded reasonable.

But my point is simply that autonomy is fine, but that the new empowered prefects might not give a better deal than the La Paz government to the local people. Tarijans think that the gas is theirs, for example, but the gas is a long way the city of Tarija. This is why it's important if the people of the Chaco now trust Tarija/Cossio more than La Paz/Morales. Probably best to mistrust both. Good luck to them.

I was aware that Goni was responsible for Law of Popular Participation (but I'm surprised you use that word "imposed" for drafting, advocating and passing a law through a regular legislative process). However, I have no need to criticize or defend Goni. I will say that I had high hopes for Goni in 1993, much as I have hopes for Evo still today. Some things will work out, I hope, and others will not. But continually painting him as a cruel or irrational dictator is just BS.


miguel (mabb) said...

John: I see your point. But, I think there are two things being talked about here. On the one side, yes, it doesn't mean 'better life for people' if the states are autonomous. In fact, some decentralization detractors argue that one of decentralization's weaknesses is precisely transfer the same vices you find in the central government to the local government. I am talking about corruption, clientilism, and so on. The other thing is, if we compare a more democratic regime with what is right now going on in Bolivia, we cannot help to observe many authoritarian tendencies in the Morales government. And, that is what is meant when the Morales government is criticized. The idea of autonomy (e.g. decentralization) bringing democracy closer to the people is what is meant too. Sort of like, the more democratic the state the better.

Now, democracy is not a guarantee for raising the standard of living of people. By now we know that. There are people who argue an authoritarian government is better.

On the Goni issue. I also think that it is a tragedy that Goni had to go the way it did. His government in the economic front and was not bad. Also, he did pass some good reforms, decentralization for example. It is just, as I said already, a tragedy that he (or someone else for him) made the decision to use force that October.