Bolivia: new charter advances —and polarizes

Meeting in Oruro rather than its official seat of protest-wracked Sucre, Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly approved all 411 articles of the new constitution in a marathon 16-hour session dominated by the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS) and its allies—and boycotted by the opposition. Said Assembly president Silvia Lazarte at the end of the session Dec. 9: “Although suffering many sacrifices, we have approved…this new constitution. We have done this for the people, and not for the parties of the right who want failure.” Boycotting Assembly member Samuel Doria Medina said the new document “undermines democracy.” (Univision, Dec. 10)

Five governors of the departments making up the so-called “Eastern Half-Moon” (Media Luna Oriental—Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando), joined by Cochabamba, issued a joint statement asserting that Bolivia does not have a new constitution, and that the new document is “a text without binding power [sin vigencia], imposed in an illegal manner, unilaterally, exclusively and anti-democratically.” (El Mundo, Spain, Dec. 11)

Under the new document, the National Congress will be renamed the “Plurinational Legislative Assembly”; the Senate is to be renamed the “Chamber of Departmental Representatives.” (Prensa Latina, Dec. 9) These reflect the respective demands of President Evo Morales’ indigenous supporters for greater inclusion, and his Half-Moon opponents for greater self-government. Contrary to erroneous early reports in the US media (e.g. AP, Dec. 9) that the draft document would allow indefinite re-election of the president, the final wording allows re-election to only one second term. (La Razón, Argentina, Dec. 11)

The opposition continues to mount charges of a Venezuelan and Cuban military presence in the country. Carlos Flores, food industry magnate and member of the conservative Comité Pro Santa Cruz, said Hercules cargo planes from the Venezuelan Air Force have been landing at Half-Moon airports and off-loading crates “which are nothing other than arms, because if they were medicine they wouldn’t be using cranes.” He said he doesn’t want civil war, but “if they throw rocks, we will respond with rocks; and if bullets, then bullets.” (Notimex, Dec. 10)

See our last post on Bolivia.