October 21, 2008

Agreement is Reached in Bolivia

MABB © ®

In the early hours of October 21, 2008, the government of Bolivia and the opposition in Congress reached an agreement on what will become the new Bolivian Constitution (Constitución Política del Estado Boliviano).

After grueling months of conflicts, which brought Bolivia several times to the brink of collapse, and 12 days of negotiations, around 100 articles modified and endless verbal confrontations, the new Bolivian constitution was finally agreed upon.

To reach this accord, the government had to show its flexibility and let up its hard line position. The opposition is the relative winner in my opinion.

The re-election of the president was the last difficult issue. President Morales accepted in the end to reduce his ambitions to stay until 2019 and accept a one term re-election after the new constitution is enacted, that is he would be able to run for office and theoretically stay until 2014.

First, Congress had to pass a law re-interpreting article 233 of the current constitution. This article gives Congress the power to 'adjust' and fine-tune the new text without changing the character of the document. Congress has to approve these 'adjustments' by 2/3 vote.

Once these 'adjustments' were done, the president signed the new law and only then the constitution could be 'adjusted'. After the adjustments were done, the Congress drafted the law convoking a referendum to approve the new constitution.

The schedule runs as follows:

Last night, Congress approved the law calling for the referendum to approve the new constitution. This referendum will be carried out on January 25, 2009. If the new constitution is approved, this would give free way to the next general elections on December 2009, where new President, Vicepresident and legislators would be elected. The new constitution is set to come into effect from January 1, 2010 on.

In January there will be two questions, one asking to decide for the size of land tenure (between 5000 and 10000 hectares) and to approve or disapprove the new constitution.

The agreements are set, but the new constitution is not yet drafted. There is an attentive expectation from the part of the opposing departments (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Sucre). They want to keep any opinion until they've had the chance to see the document.

However, these departments warned of their skepticism for the new constitution. The legislative factions of these regions voted against the law calling for the referendum. That was a sign that they were not happy with the agreements.


Anonymous said...

Let's say Morales is reelected. How long will it be before he demands another "referendum" that will enable him to be elected again a la Chavez? I don't trust him; I just think he's just buying time.

mabb said...

I think no one knows that, except Morales, of course. But, many things can go on in five years.

Luis Eduardo Siles said...

Well, the content of the article is ok, but the title is definitely misleading : The congress agreed to call the people to vote on the constitution proposal, but that does not mean that Bolivia has a new constituion, it could be rejected.. But of course if you consider that Morales has destroyed the integrity and independence of the electoral court by apponting his employees and has allowed his followers have up to 10 id s each well he has good chances of forcing the approval. But many things can happen in Bolivia s turmoiled political scene in 3 months...

mabb said...

Yes you're right. I forgot to change the title, sorry.

I thought of posting something really fast in between work.....

Anyways, thanks.

mcentellas said...

Well, there is an agreement on how to change the drat constitution. But if it holds (and I think it will), this is mostly a big (big!!) win for the opposition.

From what I can tell, the new (amended) draft CPE would recognize departmental autonomy (and along the lines of the autonomy referendums), it would increase the size of the Senate (which increases the representation of the media luna), future amendments will require 2/3 (which the government doesn't have), and strips the document of most of the more "radical" proposals (indigenous "communitarian" justice is curtailed, the "Social Control" is curtailed, property rights are strengthened, and the government's role in the economy is reduced, among other things). It seems the only thing the government "won" was the right for a two-term presidency. Perhaps Evo sold out policy for future presidential aspirations?

Evo has agreed not to run for reelection in 2014 (assuming he wins in 2009, of course). He could go back on his word, of course. But there's a long time between now & 2014.

mabb said...

At this point I am asking myself, WHY?

Why has the government agreed to all this?

Is there a back door?

It could also be that the negotiation was hard and one party had to give in, and that was the government.
It could also be that the int'l observers had some influence on the government.

Was the goal of reaching an agreement this Sunday sooooo important?

Let's wait to see the document, I say.

mabb said...

I also wanted to make clear that the posts I post are not, per se, articles. Some of them might resemble articles but they are not. I make a difference between an article and a post. Posts are pieces of information which I put together really fast to convey, just that, information. They have no article structure.

Kevin said...

I think any 'giving in' of the Masistas is a result of Bachelet and Lula saying knock it off. Apparently Chavez has been marginalized by UNASUR - and maybe that is the 'win' of the media luna and now,if the MAS let's us, Bolivians can get back to work on developing this damn poor nation!
Just let's hope there are no more stupid surprises from this guy and his sindicado.

Anonymous said...

Are there any thoughts on how the passage (or rejection) of the constitution on January 25th will affect the American travel to Bolivia? Are things expected to become more (or less) dangerous? Any thoughts on the liklihood they will end up back on the state department's watch list?

mabb said...

I don't think American tourism travel is dependent on what happens with the constitution. As far as I know, there are no articles regulating foreign travel.

What affects American travel to Bolivia is the perceived instability of the country. The biggest problems are the road blockades which protesters use to call attention.

I think it will depend on the stability of the country. If things continue to be politically hot and protests continue to be the order of the day, things will always be dangerous for tourists, not only Americans.

Also, if the government continues on this path of confrontation with the US, and the Obama effect does not heal the damaged relationship between Bolivia and the US, things will continue being hard for Americans. Let's face it, the image Americans have in Bolivia is not the best.

However, in spite of all these, American tourists continue arriving. There is also an important body of volunteers who go to Bolivia to do some social work. Not, only the peace corps has to be mentioned here but all the churches that have some projects in Bolivia.

These people continue traveling to Bolivia as if nothing happened, as far as I can tell.