September 17, 2013

A "Commitment with the Change"


How committed should a person be with a given government when asked to take part in it?

It seems logical for a president to ask for commitment when he or she is asking some person to work for the government. I imagine, every president asks the chosen person whether he or she wants to join the government in a given position and has the necessary commitment. This is especially true when people join the cabinet. At the cabinet level, people are asked to join the president's team, and therefore they have to be somewhat in-line with what the president is or wants to do. Unless, of course, the president (if he is clever) specifically asks for constructive criticism. Nonetheless, a certain level of commitment should be there. If not before he or she takes up the post, at least after the post is taken. As said before, the person is joining the president's team and therefore he or she has to do what the president "orders" to do. There is not much choice.

But, where does that commitment end or should end?

The Bolivian government seems to have taken this unwritten law beyond the realm of the presidency. As Evo Morales entered the presidency of Bolivia in 2006, I had heard of the so called "commitment with the process of change", which was necessary in order to work for the government side-by-side with Morales. I mean this might have been a great opportunity for some people to join this government and thus pass on to history as one of the people who actively helped Bolivia change. Many times, be it in the media or directly from government officials, I heard those words: commitment with the change.

I often wondered what did it mean. Did it mean some thing like I wrote in the first paragraph in this article? Did it mean that anyone enlisted in the president's team had to have a degree of commitment towards the goals of the Morales government? Once again, that sounded to me relatively logical. Why not, as long as there was enough room for dissent and constructive criticism. I imagine that way things would be done faster. Everyone knows how in need of this the Morales government was at the beginning of its first period. The government was not only in need to find qualified and capable people to fill public posts, it also needed diligence to rapidly implement its legislative changes. While there was a substantial pool of capable people with experience in the administration of government affairs in the municipal level of government from which to pick candidates, there were less qualified people within this pool. Therefore, Morales and his government were forced to look beyond its so called bases into the ranks of professionals, which many of them might have had a political past in one of the now obsolete and discredited traditional parties. For better or worse, the MAS and Morales invited many "uncommitted" professionals to enter the government and so commit themselves to work towards the change. It was with this move, that the words "committed with the change" were linked with, at first, any invitation to join the government and, later, with anything that had to do with the government's work.

The only problem with these words is that the level of commitment asked from people with the government's goals should not obfuscate the gains that government might get from a healthy level of constructive criticism. That is exactly what it seems is going on inside the MAS and the government. The latest example is the case of, now, former Deputies Chamber President, Rebeca Delgado. Delgado, joined the government, but not the MAS, during the first period of Morales. She, a lawyer from Cochabamba, took part in the Constitutional Assembly which drafted the 2009 constitution. Later she was a vice-minister for government coordination with the social movements and, after that, she was elected to the Deputies Chamber as a member of the MAS delegation. In 2012, she was elected president of that chamber.

In her first exchanges with the press, she said she was committed to pass the some 70 laws the government had identified were necessary to implement the change in Bolivia. This was true until she questioned a law proposed by the Minister of Government, Carlos Romero. This action forced Morales to send the law for revision to the Constitutional Court. After that, Morales openly criticized her and pulled all support for her from the MAS in the lower chamber. So, in effect, she was removed from her post as president and, currently, is in process to be removed from the ranks of MAS and to be stripped from her seat in congress.

How far has the level of commitment towards the government of Morales have to reach? These examples, because there are many, seem to indicate that the MAS and Morales are not only asking for commitment, but are asking for a sheep-like attitude from the part of the "committed".

The last question is, is that useful?

Yes, that is very useful, if the government wants to implement rapidly its own legislative agenda without having the benefit of criticism to enrich the, so called change. Criticism, and I might add here deliberation, might slow the process down, often to a crawl, but the other side is, that better to do governmental things slow but well thought out than rapidly and therefore not so well thought out.