Bolivia’s Government Begins to Implement New Constitution
President Evo Morales Reaches Out to Opposition, Moves to Create Ministry to Manage Indigenous Autonomy
By Erin Rosa
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
January 29, 2009
Santa Cruz, Bolivia; January 29, 2009: Within in the next two years, Bolivian lawmakers and the national government will debate new legislation detailing a variety of issues relating to the passage of the new constitution on Sunday, including the creation of a constitutional court and an autonomous ministry to oversee indigenous rights and take input from the citizenry.
Bolivian President Evo Morales issued an executive decree on Wednesday to start the process of implementing the new constitutional text. With the order, Bolivian lawmakers in Congress will have 60 days to approve rules and procedures for a new legislative body called the Multinational Legislative Assembly, in accord with the voter-approved constitution. After this is done, voters will then decide the make up of the assembly, along with picking a president and vice president of the Andean nation on December 6, 2009. Morales’ order came after the head-of-state met with his cabinet for 13 hours on Tuesday to discuss the best ways to move forward after the vote.
While elections results were officially ratified by the country’s electoral court on Wednesday, with at least 61 percent of the popular vote supporting the constitution with 94 percent of the votes counted, Morales also announced that he would like to meet with leaders of the Bolivian departments in the eastern region of the country that voted against the proposal. Morales has said that he would like to meet personally and individually with prefects (similar to governors in the United States) of the departments to discuss their proposals with the implementation of the constitution.
The national government’s goal is to maintain a dialog on two separate paths: with the Congress to create new laws and with social movements and other groups that are interested in the autonomy rights dictated in the constitution. Once the Multinational Legislative Assembly is set in place, lawmakers will then have 180 days to approve new legislation detailing a constitutional court and legal proceedings for autonomies. An autonomous government ministry will also be created, to further the autonomy processes for indigenous groups and to solicit testimony from social movements, along with the opposition, according to Morales decree.
In the Santa Cruz department, one of the areas that did not approve the new constitution, the leader of the conservative Civic Committee for Santa Cruz, Branco Marincovich, responded to the plans with the suggestion of making Santa Cruz an independent and succeeded territory, drawing parallels to the relationship between Hong Kong and China. However, the national government denounced the proposal, calling it separatist and seditious.
The European Union officially recognized the election results this week, and expressed the hope that the new constitution will allow the country to continue to be unified and peaceful. Officials with the U.S. Department of State have yet to comment definitively on the results, but congratulated the country on creating the constitution.
With the executive decree and the official ratification of the results, lawmakers from the opposition and those who are supportive of the Morales administration are now on a set deadline to begin applying the new constitution, with a national election on the horizon in less than a year.
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