Sunday, December 09, 2007

Assembly Approves Articles, Opposition Boycotts Plenary


ORURO, BOLIVIA (digitalwarriormedia) After 15 hours of meeting and deliberation, more than 400 changes were approved for Bolivia’s draft constitution. Delegates met at the International Convention Center at the Technical University of Oruro (UTO) in Vinto, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the city of Oruro.

Almost all of the proposed articles passed, with issues related to large holdings of private property remaining unsettled.

Over a thousand Huanani miners and peasant supporters, with some arriving from El Alto, maintained a vigil outside the university auditorium throughout the night.

At one point, people from the social sectors tried to prevent the entry of opposition delegates, whom arrived late, but were allowed passage after intervention from Assembly members.

The plenary began with 153 delegates, but was then joined after midnight by 9 more representatives, bringing the total delegates present to 164. Those in attendance represented 10 of the 16 national political parties.


Opposition representatives either boycotted the proceedings or those who were present called the plenary illegal.

Opposition party members stated the plenary broke all the rules of procedure, some claiming that the document was not distributed in advance and others claiming that the plenary had no right to move the deliberations outside of Sucre or La Paz.

PODEMOS, one of the strongest and most vocal opposition parties to the Morales administration had only four delegates present for deliberation and voting. Another 12 members arrived at the meeting late, denouncing the plenary as illegal, but when they were unable to disrupt the meeting, took their leave.

According to Boris Medina, a delegate from PODEMOS, the “constitution is illegal and we'll denounce it in every forum we can.” PODEMOS Senator Luis Vasquez Villamor, described the document as a "mistake" because it did not include the voices of the opposition.

The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party had the greatest representation with 130 constituents present, with all of the other 9 parties having less than 10 representatives each in attendance.

Notably absent were constituents of the center-right Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) – another strong opposition party with considerable support. Another six parties lacked even a single representative for the deliberations.

The capital issue began to generate heated debate between the representatives from the La Paz and Chuquisaca departments, causing delegates from Chuquisaca to leave the chamber and hold up progress for an hour.

Finally an agreement was reached by which Sucre was defined as "Capital of the Republic of Bolivia." The agreement does not mention the seat of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Although the prospect of President Morales being elected to an unlimited number of consecutive terms received a tremendous amount of speculative attention, the measure was not included in the draft constitution.

The President is permitted to be elected to a second consecutive term. If the new constitution passes and Morales is re-elected to a second five-year term, then he could remain in the Executive office until 2018.

In general, private property is to be respected, however a referendum will be put to the people for deciding the fate of the latifundas – large swaths of private property that often are synonymous with the haciendas of the colonial and post-colonial eras.

The measure set to limit the size of individual land holdings to 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) was unable to obtain a two-thirds majority of the assembly members present.

Bolivians will be able to express their opinion in a referendum vote on the entire constitution next year at an unknown date, although some have speculated it could be as late as September 2008.

(Photographs from El Nuevo Diario and Los Tiempos)

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