December 04, 2007

Update on the Constitutional Assembly Struggle

MABB © ®

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.