Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bolivia's New Constitution

Nick Buxton

On 25 January, three days before the world’s business and political elites gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, a very different crowd was forming in the Andean capital of Bolivia. Whilst Davos’ leaders appeared bereft and lost at the failure of their prized economic model, Bolivians danced to mark its defeat. The occasion was the celebration of the country’s new constitution, which in its opening words “puts behind us the colonial, republican and neoliberal state” and which commits itself to building a state “based on principles of sovereignty, dignity, complementarity, solidarity, harmony and equal distribution and redistribution of social goods.”

Against a barrage of opposition media propaganda funded by Bolivia’s elites, the new constitution was approved with 61% of the popular vote. Given the extent of the financial crisis in the US and Europe, the clear lack of popular confidence in Bolivia in the free market model is unlikely to have ruffled many feathers, but it is none the less very significant. Bolivia was once the prized pupil for its wholesale application of policies encouraged by the IMF and the World Bank. Now it is one of the countries articulating an alternative.

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