Monday, January 19, 2009

Constitutional referendum reading

Bolivia's Constitutional Challenge
Annie Murphy

Mariano Aguilera is driving fast down a country road in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, heading towards his sugar cane fields. He coaxes the red Mercedes over ninety and passes a truck full of peasants, regarding them in his rearview mirror.

"I bet they're headed to La Paz to take over the Congress or something," he says. "A new constitution is going to bring nothing but more problems."

From August 2006 to December 2007, Aguilera was actually part of an assembly that rewrote Bolivia's constitution. The draft will be approved or rejected by a highly anticipated referendum here on January 25.

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Bolivians Mobilize for National Vote on New Constitution
Ben Dangl

In the morning on Sunday, January 18, after a heavy rain fell on La Paz, Bolivia, the sun came out, drying the umbrellas of thousands of marchers winding through the city streets. The mobilization was in support of a new constitution which is to be voted on this January 25.

Eddie Mamani, a resident of La Paz with an indigenous wiphala flag draped around his neck, spoke loudly to be heard over the brass band playing behind him. "For too many years we have been exploited by right wing politicians who do not govern for all Bolivians. We are marching today for our children and our grandchildren."

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Bolivian Constitutional Referendum Analysis
Andean Information Network

On January 25, 2009 Bolivians will vote to accept or reject a draft constitution promoted by the MAS government, resulting from the conflict-ridden Constitutional Assembly and subsequent multiparty negotiations. The extensive 100-page, awkwardly-worded document has provoked a myriad of mixed reactions in the diverse nation. Opposition groups have voiced stiff criticism of the proposal, although ironically their congressional representatives ratified it. On the other hand, some social movements and progressive groups argue that MAS permitted too many concessions in the document to make it sufficiently reformist. Some of these critiques have proven valid and constructive, and others inaccurate and politically motivated.

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Touching a Nerve: Freedom of Religion in Bolivian Constitutional Debate
Andean Information Network

The new Bolivian constitutional draft to be voted upon in the January 25 referendum incorporates an important reform: the separation of church and state. It also broadens provisions for religious freedom, specifically including indigenous religious practices. Although these stipulations seem rational and necessary to citizens of countries who employ these precepts, within Bolivia it is a symbolic and historic change. In response, opposition groups on the right argue that some of the articles are too vague and leave the door open for religious reforms they oppose, especially in the areas of personal rights and education. In contrast, women’s and other progressive groups had hoped that the new constitution would go further to lay the foundation for more liberal legislation.

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