Garcia Linera on the constituent assembly, indigenous autonomy and plurinational state

La Prensa, June 17

Q - University students, civic entities and social organisations have announced their intentions to mobilise in Sucre to reclaim attention to their demands in the Constituent Assembly. The tensions seems likely to dominate the assembly this week

A – It was foreseeable that tensions would rise in the defining months of the assembly. I was telling the assembly delegates: “You blow here and in Santa Cruz we get a cold, you cough here and in La Paz we get pneumonia”. The Constituent Assembly has entered into a kind of butterfly effect, where one well or badly placed word in the constitution can modify the relations of power, resources, rights and actions. This is the power that the assembly has. Therefore, it is not strange at all, and it was foreseeable that in the definitive moments the social entities would have to mobilise.

This would not have occurred if there had been a more deliberative process in society, that is to say, that these problems had be debated in forums. Today we are rushing through it. We should have done this five months ago, that way this concentration of society and of history into such a small time and space would not have been necessary. Given that did not happen, now everything is concentrated in Sucre, and in two months we have to resolve everything.....

Q – What is MAS’ model for autonomy? How we you be able to achieve an articulation between regions and departments?

A – Until now there have been three consolidated levels of government: national, departmental and municipal. And all the reports coming out of the Autonomy commission recognise them. Apart from this, it is obligatory that this Constituent Assembly incorporate the issue of the rights of regional and local self-government of the indigenous movements, because they have been the motor of these changes over the last few years.

Q – How are you looking to incorporate the issue of indigenous autonomies in the territorial level?

A – This is the problem. The first option is to use the current territorial structures in force: various municipalities conform a province and a number of these, the departments, and a number of these a region. Here there is no problem and one saves themselves the tensions over borders. And the idea is like this: two or three municipalities which have an indigenous majority conform an indigenous territory, but we have to see with what attributions; or various provinces where there is an indigenous majority conform another macro indigenous territoriality; apart from this, if all the provinces of a department have an indigenous majority and they are seen as so, then they would conform an indigenous department; and if pieces of a department with pieces of another articulate themselves into an even bigger territoriality, there can be an indigenous region. There we are not constructing something parallel, rather we are superimposing the issue of identity over a territorial ordinance already in existence. It would be the easiest way and perhaps could generate less friction.

Nevertheless, the companeros of the social movements are proposing that the territorial delimitations not use those in existence, but instead involve the reconstitution of the old territorial borders of the indigenous peoples. This is interesting, but complicated to implement. And the constituent delegates have this discussion in their hands. There are legitimate historically arguments for them, but I have the impression that these will be the most difficult.

Q – Another point that is provoking observations of MAS is the approval of a plurinational state which could, say its critics, lead to the conformation of indigenous “republiquetas” or the division of the country.

A – This is based on theoretical ignorance. Close to 40% of the states in the world are plurinational or pluricultural and maintain their unity. There are intellectuals who make up the opposition and who have come up with the demagogic idea that “the state is the same as a nation”, nevertheless this is an idea from the 19th century, it is the old and typical debate amongst the romantics, that is, we are 150 years behind in regards to this theoretical and political debate. It is a barbarity that there continues to exist this malicious ignorance. What we are looking to do is resolve what has not been resolved until now, admit the social diversity of the state, with its identities, cultures and nationalities, incorporating them into the structure of the state to guarantee its cohesion and solidness. This is the idea behind a plurinational state. So, the real debate, just like what is occurring with autonomy, is how to achieve this. Here, only now are we entering into a serious dialogue.

Translated extracts from interview published in La Prensa

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