Alex van Schaick, Jan 21 2009
Strengthening the rights and power of
Article 5 requires that the state institutions cater to the linguistic traditions of indigenous people, who may be less comfortable speaking Spanish than a native language. The article stresses, "The official languages of the State are Spanish and all the languages of the indigenous peoples and nations. The pluri-national Government and the departmental governments must use at least two official languages, one of which must be Spanish and the other will be chosen taking into account the use, convenience, circumstances, necessities and preferences of the population."
The Bolivian constitution cements some of the rights outlined in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which supports indigenous self-government and self-determination. Article 289 in the constitution stipulates, "Rural indigenous autonomy consists of self-government and the exercise of self-determination for rural indigenous nations and native peoples who share territory, culture, history, language, and unique forms of juridical, political, social, and economic organization."
Concretely, the draft constitution gives indigenous people organized in an autonomous territory the right to write their own statutes, as long as these do not violate any laws or the constitution. Indigenous communities will decide how to manage development—economic and otherwise—how to administer local natural resources. Local indigenous governments will also be allowed to levy some taxes and appropriate the funds.
Fulfilling a long-standing demand of
New Responsibilities of the State
The state has myriad new responsibilities to the Bolivian people under the draft constitution. Citizens have the right to water, food, education, health care, housing, retirement, electricity, telecommunications, and other basic services. The state will have the obligation to insure access to such basic services in an efficient and equitable manner. Education must be free and health insurance must be universal.
Article 20 establishes access to water and sewage systems as human rights and bans the privatization of these services.
The new Magna Carta guarantees access to pharmaceuticals with the state prioritizing the domestic production of generic drugs. Access to drugs "cannot be restricted by intellectual property rights or commercialization," reads article 41. And Article 42 states, "It is the responsibility of the State to promote and guarantee the respect, use, research, and practice of traditional medicine" and mandates the creation of a register of natural medicines as the cultural patrimony of
Sovereignty over Strategic Resources
One of the central demands of
Article 349 declares, "Natural resources are the inalienable and indivisible property and direct dominion of the Bolivian people and will be administrated, in the collective interest, by the State." YPFB, the state oil and gas company, will be in charge of the entire productive chain (exploration, exploitation, commercialization), although it is authorized to sign contracts with private companies allowing their participation in productive activities. Both YPFB and
The draft constitution contains provisions that strengthen women's rights although it falls short on abortion and same-sex marriage or civil unions. On the positive side, article 14 prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender identity, or sexual preference. And article 15 contains language against familial and gendered violence. Article 48 guarantees equal remuneration for men and women with the same job.
The constitution also requires equal participation of women and men in
With regard to workers rights, the new constitution does not fundamentally alter worker-employer relations but offers workers a few new protections. Aside from recognizing the right to strike and form unions, the constitution guarantees job stability. According to Article 49, "The State will protect job stability. Unjustified firing and all forms of labor abuse are prohibited."
Article 54 establishes that workers in businesses that are going bankrupt or are abandoned in "an unjustified way" will be able to take over such enterprises, with State support, and turn them into "community or social" business if such action is in accord with the law and the public interest.
It remains to be seen whether the lofty aims of the constitution will yield concrete results.
Alex van Schaick is a NACLA Research Associate. He recently returned from a Fulbright scholarship in
Republished from NACLA