Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Constitution that will Celebrate Diversity

La Paz (digitalwarriormedia) The draft constitution, completed on November 24th by a majority of delegates from Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly, demonstrates an overall conviction to recognize the multiculturalism of the nation.

According to John Harbeson, Political Science professor at the City University of New York, “A constitution is what orders the political society within which a government operates.” It is a means for identifying the rules by which the national government is obligated to abide.

One need only take a cursory glance at the draft document to see that it has been written to enshrine the acceptance of Bolivia’s diverse populations and a respect for the culture of a multitude of ethnic groups.

Within the first 10 articles that address the fundamental basis of the state, recognition of Bolivia’s diversity in language and culture is clearly spelled out as an integral part of a democratic and inter-cultural nation.

The official language of the state is Spanish. However Article 5 also identifies each of the languages of Bolivia’s 36 indigenous groups as official languages in their respective geographic locations throughout the country. The draft document, also includes the ethnic values of “do not steal”, “live harmoniously”, and “live well”.

Those critics who say Morales is governing only for his Quechua and Aymara power base and ignoring the middle class in the nation’s urban areas, have missed the point.

The same can be said of the international mainstream media that prefers to claim the new constitution will allow Morales to be president for life or is putting the country on course for further ethnic divisions.

The draft document is more than 100 pages long, with specific articles that relate to the rights of young people, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It speaks to gender equality and a respect for all Bolivians regardless of ethnicity or social class, urban dweller or those in the rural areas.

In a country where citizens often self-construct their own homes without proper access to running water or a sewage system, the constitution spells out that all levels of government are responsible for providing equal and universal basic services.

Parts of the draft document have been reprinted in Bolivia’s local and national papers. The document in its entirety is available for anyone with internet access to download from the Agencia Boliviana de Información website.

And throughout the capital of La Paz, a complete copy can be obtained on the street for about 50 cents or received for free by walking into the offices of the Senate.

For the international press to continue to focus on ethnic divisions and a supposed grab for power by President Morales, demonstrates a bias and sensationalism that is irresponsible and clearly misinformed.

Rather than focusing on the historical significance of a national document that is written to protect the rights of a widely diverse population of people, there are those in the mainstream press who choose to write about authoritarianism.

The work of the Constituent Assembly must still be voted upon by the Bolivian population - who may choose to accept or reject it. That process alone demonstrates a clear respect for democracy.

The diverse peoples of the Bolivian nation will have the opportunity to express their desire for the governing order of their future society. It a choice that few global citizens have had the opportunity to exercise in their own national constitutions, including most nations that profess to value and respect democracy, such as the United States.



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