The Bolivian Constitution Passes


As the results come in, I would like to direct readers attention to a series of great articles by Ben Dangl, including the latest written with April Howard over at “From Bolivia’s Streets: What Voters Think About the New Constitution” . Their lead-up to the vote is essential for anyone trying to understand Bolivia and what votes like these mean in the array of contexts (Latin American, United States, world trade).

It appears that many in Bolivia will answer Si this weekend as they will pass the new constitution Early results predict, according to Reuters, 55 percent for the Constitution.

The Constitution further organizes the Bolivian government, grants further control over natural resources, alters the economic structure, and sanctifies the indigenous population of Bolivia in various ways. It is the later that is so contentious among Bolivians, especially urban dwellers who are more Westernized. This is an old system of emotion that thrives in America.
From comments gathered over the last few weeks, some Bolivians feel that the constitution is unfair to the masses and privileges the minority indigenous. This is the same line of thought in the US when it comes to affirmative action or political-correctness. These issues are real, but they’re also lacking.

Of course, media coverage has much to do with these views and has left much to the imagination and ignores the racism and repression that has characterized indigenous relations in Bolivia for hundreds of years (just like some in the US try to talk their way away from slavery or indigenous genocide). It is more than just control over key industries or holding onto power – the arguments for and against Hugo Chavez – that are in play here as well. Issues of worth, self-identity, and culture are also important when looking at any culture and any makeup of a society. What is lacking in coverage of these elections in Latin America and referendums across the continent in the past decade is historical context. Opposing figures like Chavez for the right reasons – not his insatiable hunger for more power, although certainly troubling.

The context, and this true of Bolivia, lies in the middle. A voice of the people in the throes of a lengthy history of US influence and a landed, wealthy oligarchy, which, before World War II had a vice-like grip on all of Latin America, especially Venezuela, and, with US-assistance, provided the voice for the leaders. This time, it is populist appeals and the voice, like it or not, of the people, that is influencing current relations in Bolivia and elsewhere. Historical context would create more balanced coverage, of his referendum in Bolivia, the referendum coming up in Venezuela, and future democratic actions brought in front of the world.

The Latest News
From Bolivia’s Streets: What Voters Think About the New Constitution
Bolivians Back New Constitution
Bolivia constitution approved, quick count shows
Quick count: Bolivians back new constitution
Bolivia Constitution Vote Strengthens Morales

As further news breaks, I will be sure to update. Also, look out for (on Feb. 2 in “Today in Latin America”) a more in-depth look at the new Constitution, with regard to the old one, passed on that day in 1967.


~ by Daniel on January 25, 2009.

One Response to “The Bolivian Constitution Passes”

  1. Also note that Dangl sindicated one of the articles in NACLA (

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