Lazarte - “The constitution which president Evo Morales is promoting opens the path to secession”

Interview with Jorge Lazarte, constituent assembly delegate in Bolivia

Joaquim Ibarz, La Paz, La Vanguardia 22-05-07

The constitution that Evo Morales is promoting opens the path to the break up of the country. The fundamental line of his proposal is a new indigenist constitution that aims to declare the state plurinational, converting the cultural-ethnic groups into plurinations. The president has opened up a Pandora’s box, “half the population will not recognise themselves in this constitution”, signalled Jorge Lazarte, independent constituent assembly delegate. A well-respected political scientist in Bolivia, Lazarte explains that the constitution has been deadlocked for ten months. With only 70 days to go to present the new text, only a few innocuous environment articles have been approved.

What has occurred?

Not even the most pessimistic person thought that the legal time would run out without defining the content of the constitution. There has been a wasting of time in conflicts over form, rather than on issues of content. The government wanted to substitute the two thirds necessary to approve an article with an absolute majority, excluding the minorities. Politically and legally, this was unsustainable. There was an ambiguous system of voting approved that will create more problems. A few articles will be approved by two thirds and the more conflictive one will go through to a referendum afterwards.

What is the president proposing?

Evo Morales governs thinking only in the indigenous people, he does not take into account the non-indigenous. He wants to form a plurinational state, with 36 indigenous nationalities. He confuses nationality, in the sociological sense, with nationality in the political sense. This proposal is linked to his strategy of basing himself on the indigenous peoples in order to have all power and for a long time.

Each ethnic group will have its own nationality?

It will recognise indigenous cultures as nations. They hope to recognise Bolivia as a state of indigenous nations. It is a proposal with an indigenous focus; this is a process of the indigenisation of all the state structures. From there, political consequences are derived in the organisation of the state and in its functioning. A proposal has been presented to create a fourth power of the state, with indigenous majority, above the other three powers of the state.

What is this fourth power?

They want to change the system of political representation, which is based on territorial electorates, like in democratic countries. Now, they hope to create indigenous electorates in which votes are taken according to traditions and customs, with dual systems of representation and distinct electoral systems. Moreover, there will exist two judicial systems.

What does it mean to recognise indigenous cultures as nations?

If they are nations, not only is their autonomy recognised, but also their right to self-determination. In terms of international law, this right involves territory. Those who say nation say territory, and territory is state sovereignty over that territory. Therefore, the right to independence and the right to secede are recognised. Morales opened a Pandora’s box. To indigenise the state structures with ethnic nationalism will create problems in a country that is weakly integrated. It raises the possibility that small indigenous groups could declare themselves nations and reclaim their independence and make the non-indigenous a minority group.

Could the new constitution encourage the secession of the rich provinces of the Bolivian east?

Not only that. The Afro-Bolivians, who are not included amongst the indigenous nations, are already reclaiming their territory. The departments of the east are no longer reclaiming autonomy, as they are doing now, but rather territory and their own sovereignty. In these conditions, one could ask themselves how is it possible to being a process of agreement. Numerous proposals are not taken on board by the other parts. That is to say, the majority currents of the government and its party hope to make revolution in the Constituent Assembly, something they could not achieve in the streets.

Is the model here the populism of Chavez?

What differentiates this government from the populisms of Latin America is not only its indigenist discourse, but also its social base of support. It has converted the indigenous sectors into the protagonists of Bolivian politics. It could be said that it is indigenist populism. In Bolivia all of us are in agreement to give priority to the indigenous world. The problem is how to do it and under which formulas.

Translated from La Vanguardia

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