November 09, 2008

On the January 2009 Referendum - The Ballot

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This is the ballot to be used in the January 2009 referendum, when Bolivians are supposed to decide over the text article number 398 is supposed to have and approve or reject the newly negotiated constitution (click on the image to see a larger version).

The first part asks voters to decide whether article 398 should read, in its final sentence, 10,000 (24 710 acres) or 5,000 hectares (12 355 acres). The article pretends to regulate the private property of large pieces of "productive" land. Productive here, is defined as land that has a social function. Please, don't ask me what social function is, because it is not defined.

The second part asks voters to approve or disapprove the new constitution, which was written by the Constituent Assembly, agreed upon with the Prefects and amended by the Special Committee on Concertation in Congress.

This referendum is the next milestone Bolivia, Bolivians, the government and the political leadership have to go through in order to bring Bolivia away from the current crisis.

The bloodiest constitution writing process

While most constitution writing processes are prone to social unrest, political polemic, long and heated debates and full of accusations and even insults, the latest Bolivian attempt to write a new constitution was one of the bloodiest in recent history.

According to a report in La Razon, there were 25 deaths product of the intolerance and intransigence the opposition and the government negotiated the document.

The process started on August 6, 2006, as Evo Morales sought to drive his political agenda ahead.
Six months later, and after serious delays on the constitutional assembly process, the first 3 victims fell. On January 11, 2007 government followers and supporters of the then Cochabamba Prefect, Manfred Reyes, clashed without control and without the presence of the police. Reyes had announced he would push through autonomy for Cochabamba.

Eight months later, on September 24 - 26, 2007, police forces and protesters clashed on the streets of the city of Sucre (a.k.a. Chuquisaca), with 3 more people dead. The civic organizations had called supporters to action to force the Constituent Assembly to include the moving of the capital to Sucre in the debate.

But September 11 - 12, 2008 were the bloodiest of days of all. In one of the most violent confrontations between government supporters and opposition forces, 18 died in the small town of Porvernir, in Pando department. The conflict grew out of protests from the opposition departments (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija) in response to the government's efforts to impose its constitution and the reduction of the department's intake from natural gas exports (IDH). In the same month, September 17, one young opposition supporter, member of the UCJ (in Spanish Union Juvenil Crucenista) died beaten by government supporters.

The calculations on how much money was spent in this process are still being made. However, no matter how expensive it was, the loss of one life was too much.