January 25, 2009 by theradicalmormon
It is very interesting to see what is going on in Bolivia these days. Jan 25 is a nation-wide vote on a new constitution which seems to give more power to the people democratically. From the Wikipedia entry on the subject, the new constitution would make the following changes:
- It acknowledges Bolivia as a unitary plurinational state.
- Natural resources are the exclusive dominion of the Bolivian people, administered by the state.
- The number of MPs was reduced, while the number of senators was increased; the MPs will be elected by first past the post voting in the future, in a change from the previous mixed member proportional system.
- A mixed economy will be established; in a separate referendum to be held before the constitutional referendum, voters will decide whether to allow private land possession up to 10,000 hectares.
- Local autonomies and decentralisation will be reformed.
- Elections to all public bodies will be held if the constitution is approved, and all previous terms will not be considered for term limits; additionally, the president will be allowed to be reelected once, thus allowing Evo Morales two more terms if he decides to pursue this route. Furthermore, if no candidate gains more than 50% of the vote in the presidential election, there will be a second round; up to now, Congress had to decide who would become president in such a case.
- It introduces the possibility of recall referendums for all elected officials.
- The judiciary will be reformed, and judges will be elected in the future and no longer appointed by Congress.
- Sucre will be acknowledged as Bolivia’s capital, but the institutions will remain where they are (executive and legislative in La Paz, judiciary in Sucre). The electoral authorities, which will become a fourth constitutional power, will be situated in Sucre.
The Constitution is expected to pass:
Morales pointed out that in the new constitution, basic services – such as water, sewage, gas and electricity – would be a human right, as would education and healthcare. Morales also reflected on the recent history of US intervention in the country and pointed out that the new constitution prohibits the creation of US bases in Bolivia. He clarified that, in spite of the right wing’s claims, the new constitution does not (unfortunately) legalize abortion and gay marriage. Above all, he explained, indigenous rights and indigenous representation in government would be empowered. (For more on what changes the new constitution might bring, see this previous article, ¿Sí o No? Bolivians Mobilize for National Vote on New Constitution, 1/18/09)
Regardless of the extent to which the changes in the new constitution are applied, the document is significant in that it has been a central part of the political battleground for the bulk of Morales’ time in office. The constitution is also a kind of mirror held up to Bolivian politics, representing the hopes, contradictions and shortcomings of various sides of the political divide.
There are many valid criticisms of the constitution from the left – that the document won’t allow for the break up of existing large land holdings, that it won’t legalize abortion, that it doesn’t go far enough in combating neoliberalism, that there exists a lot of vague language about how these changes will be implemented, and more. But of the many people who will cast their ballot for the constitution this Sunday, a significant number won’t be voting specifically for the new document, or even the MAS government, but against the right wing, and the racism, poverty and conflicts the right has exacerbated in recent years.
‘Twill be interesting indeed. Everyone check your favorite internet news service tomorrow and see how the vote turns out.
Also of interest down there is the recent nationalization of the Chaco oil company:
Chaco is controlled by Pan american energy llC, which is 60 per cent owned by london-based BP PlC. Bolivia’s state oil company, YPF Bolivianos, owns 49 per cent of Chaco, a stake it got after morales nationalized state pension funds in may 2006, according to Bolivia’s Hydrocarbons Chamber.
morales budgeted $43.1 million us for the takeover of energy companies in the country, according to aBI, the government’s official news agency. since taking office in January 2006, he has sought to increase state control of natural resources.
“some petroleum companies don’t respect the Bolivians,” morales said in the broadcast. “we’re going make them respect us by seizing all their shares.”
The nationalization of the oil industry in Bolivia has been in the works since 2006 when Morales announced that the state would gain full control of the country’s hydrocarbons.
Though many in the Mormon Church cringe at the slightest hint of socialism, I see little problem with an imperfect government doing something that rectifies the reason the world lies in sin. What do I mean? D&C 49:20 says: