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Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution: The 2009 Constitution in Historical and Comparative Perspective

Authors:
4 Bolivia’s New
Multicultural Constitution
The 2009 Constitution in Historical
and Comparative Perspective
Miguel Centellas
On January 25, 2009, Bolivian voters approved a new constitution in a national
referendum—the fi rst time in the country’s storied constitutional history that such
a document was subjected to a popular mandate—with a comfortable margin of
victory (61.43 percent).
1 The vote followed a tumultuous and divisive political pro-
cess that began in earnest in 2006, with the election of a Constituent Assembly, but
with roots in the political crisis that had forced then-president Gonzalo S á nchez de
Lozada to resign on October 17, 2003, in the midst of a broad popular uprising. The
period from October 2003 through January 2009 was one of the most polarized in
Bolivia’s political history; many observers worried about the ability of the Bolivian
state to survive the tensions tearing the country’s social fabric apart. In fact, the
constitutional reform process itself stalled repeatedly—including violent political
confrontations in the city of Sucre (the site of the assembly’s deliberations) that left
three dead in November 2007 and threatened to derail the entire process. Thus, the
sheer fact that a constitutional document was put before voters, approved by them
in a free and fair election, and accepted as legitimate by all relevant political actors
is a remarkable achievement.
The new constitution has been celebrated—within Bolivia, but especially around
the world—as a signifi cant advance for indigenous rights in a country where, despite
being a signifi cant majority, indigenous peoples have long been marginalized. The
new constitution contains elements that address indigenous groups’ aspirations
for collective rights and liberal concerns over the protection of individual rights.
However, Bolivia’s new constitution is often presented as a radical, far-reaching
departure from the country’s past political tradition. Such praises tend to focus on
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89 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
the document’s broad recognition of indigenous autonomy and the multicultural
language that recognizes thirty-two indigenous “nations” and even incorporates
many indigenous cultural symbols and norms—as well as the recognition of collec-
tive cultural rights—into what is truly a multicultural constitutional text. Of course,
the government of Evo Morales—Bolivia’s fi rst indigenous president—has actively
promoted this view both at home and abroad. Therefore, one must look very care-
fully beyond the rhetoric and symbolism of the new Bolivian politics to assess the
actual scope and impact of multicultural reforms on the day-to-day politics of ordi-
nary Bolivians.
This chapter makes an attempt to do just that in three ways: fi rst, by looking
at the Constituent Assembly itself and offering a historical context and an institu-
tional analysis of the body’s formation, deliberations, and dissolution. The histori-
cal context begins with three moments: the 1938 Constituent Assembly, the 1945
Indian Congress and Constitutional Convention, and the 1971 Popular Assembly.
Each was an important milestone in Bolivia’s political history and provided both
inspiration and benchmarks for the 2006–2008 constitutional reform process. But
another important context—particularly for the multicultural dimension relevant
to this volume—is the broad range of reforms during S á nchez de Lozada’s fi rst pres-
idency (1993–1997), which included changes to constitution that made it explicitly
more multicultural than previous documents—but maintaining a liberal-pluralist
emphasis on individual (rather than collective) rights. The institutional analysis
focuses on the Constituent Assembly’s formation and deliberative process. That
process was highly polarized and quickly broke down—threatening the entire con-
stitutional reform project. The process was rescued by an eleventh-hour political
compromise forged within the Senate (rather than the Constituent Assembly) in
October 2008 that modifi ed nearly a quarter of the 412 articles in the text approved
by the Constituent Assembly, nearly a year earlier, in December 2007. The result is
an image of a fragile, chaotic, and deeply polarizing process that very nearly failed.
Next, this chapter turns to a discussion of the relative gains and losses for indige-
nous and multicultural rights in the fi nal constitutional text that went before voters
in January 2009. Gains are relative to previous constitutional reforms, which had
progressively included greater multicultural language—particularly in the consti-
tutional reforms of 1995. Losses are understood in two ways: fi rst, starting with the
draft approved by the Constituent Assembly in December 2007—but especially after
the compromise of October 2008—the scope of the reforms fell below the expecta-
tions of many indigenous actors. Second, many of the gains made were in practice
limited in various ways: by the extended reach of the state (as interpreted by the new
MAS [Movement toward Socialism] regime), because they were contingent on spe-
cial enabling laws, or through the introduction of other reforms (not approved by
the Constituent Assembly but incorporated in the fi nal text) that had been opposed
by indigenous activists. The result is an image of a new constitution that is not quite
as radical a departure from previous political traditions as is often imagined.
Finally, the chapter analyzes the Bolivian case within the framework of Arend
Lijphart’s “power-sharing” model. Beginning in the 1990s, the “constitutional engi-
neering” scholarship actively debated different institutional solutions to “divided
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 90
societies.” While Bolivia clearly meets the criteria for a “divided society” (whether
defi ned by its ethnic diversity, its regional cleavages, or its deep political polarization),
the new constitution does not easily fi t within the framework of a power-sharing
model of democracy. True, many of the constitutional reforms—particularly the
different kinds of autonomy granted to municipalities, departments, and “regions”
(a new, intermediate political unit)—suggest a new “devolved” political structure
that radically departs from Bolivia’s long-standing unitary state tradition. Likewise,
the eleventh-hour compromise between rival political leaders that amended the
constitutional text suggests the kind of extrainstitutional consociational approach
long advocated by Arend Lijphart (see Lijphart 1977). Yet a closer look—both at the
constitutional text itself and its current application—suggests that Bolivia has not
moved as neatly toward a power-sharing model as some imagine. In fact, many ele-
ments of the new constitution harken back to the corporatist tradition of the 1950s,
emphasizing a strong state role in national development—a role that often puts the
state in direct confl ict with indigenous communities.
One key example is the confl ict involving indigenous communities in the Isiboro
S é cure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) and the central govern-
ment over a highway construction project (see BIF 2011). The TIPNIS territory was
originally established as a national park in 1965 before becoming recognized as one
of the fi rst “native indigenous territories” (Tierra Comunitaria de Origen, TCO) in
1990. Like the other three TCOs established in 1990 and the seven created in 1992, the
TIPNIS territory was created by an executive decree in response to the 1990 March
for Dignity spearheaded by the Confederaci ó n de Pueblos Ind í genas del Oriente
de Bolivia. It is signifi cant that the fi rst recognition of indigenous autonomy was
the product of demands “from below”—but it is also important to note that these
were narrowly circumscribed to small indigenous groups located in Bolivia’s inte-
rior. In August 2010, the three indigenous peoples who live in TIPNIS (the Chim á n,
Yuracar é , and Trinitario-Moje ñ o) began a 260-mile march to La Paz to protest the
construction of a highway through TIPNIS, primarily by arguing that the decision by
Morales’s government to build a highway without prior consultation violated their
rights established in the creation of their TCO in 1990, as well as the new 2009 con-
stitution. After a confrontation that lasted two months—during which Morales and
his government offi cials insisted that the highway was essential for national develop-
ment goals—the government agreed to halt construction. The incident generated a
serious political (and moral) crisis for Morales’s government, as public outcry over
a harsh police crackdown on the marchers on September 25, 2010, galvanized public
support for the indigenous people’s demands. Overall, the evidence suggests that
despite indigenous autonomy originating as a grassroots demand, the application of
indigenous autonomy is still primarily understood as structured and applied “from
above” in ways that privilege the central state. Despite legal and constitutional assur-
ances, indigenous autonomy is still very fragile in Bolivia.
None of this suggests that the Bolivian model is a failure. Instead, the purpose of
this chapter is to point out the limitations facing multicultural reforms in a country
with a signifi cant indigenous majority—even when the dominant political actor (in
this case, MAS)—has made such reforms a cornerstone of its political campaigns.
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91 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
It is critical to understand that these limitations come not merely from entrenched
elites but from the diffi cult reality facing an underdeveloped country like Bolivia.
In the end, one sees a clear trajectory in the policy orientation of Evo Morales’s
government: Although it has made multiculturalism and indigenous rights a high
priority, this has been repeatedly subservient to the goal of strengthening the central
state—seen as crucial for the country’s economic development. Yet, despite these
limitations, the advances in the 2009 Constitution do signal a shift in Bolivian poli-
tics that will have long-term positive consequences.
THE 2006 CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY IN HISTORICAL
AND INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT
Unlike many countries in Latin America and elsewhere, Bolivia’s transition to democ-
racy did not include constitutional reforms. Bolivia entered its democratic history
with the 1967 Constitution—a document drafted (though never implemented)
during the military dictatorship of Ren é Barrientos (1964–1969). Traditional par-
ties incorporated grassroots demands for constitutional reform by the late 1980s,
leading to two substantial reforms to the 1967 Constitution, in 1994–1995 and 2004
(referred to as the 1995 Constitution and the 2004 Constitution, respectively).
2 Both
reforms were approved by the legislature, since the 1967 Constitution did not allow
for a Constituent Assembly. The 1995 Constitution included signifi cant changes—
particularly in the area of multicultural reform—that were part of a broader pack-
age of institutional reforms (including electoral system reform and municipal
decentralization) pursued during S á nchez de Lozada’s fi rst presidency. The issue
of a Constituent Assembly was raised in and became a defi ning issue of the 2002
election: it was embraced by some parties (notably MAS) but rejected by others
(notably the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, MNR). Still, demands for
further constitutional reform were strong enough to push the issue onto the legisla-
tive agenda. Many of the 2004 reforms (including the introduction of a Constituent
Assembly into the constitution) were already contemplated before the 2003 politi-
cal crisis. Still, they were not enough to satisfy pent-up popular frustrations and
demands for a Constituent Assembly.
Only six months into his presidency, Evo Morales fulfi lled one of his princi-
pal campaign promises: to hold a national election for a Constituent Assembly. On
July 2, 2006, more than 3 million Bolivian voters (more than 83 percent of eligible
voters) went to the polls to elect delegates to a Constituent Assembly that would
be empowered to and charged with drafting a new national constitution. Although
this was not the fi rst time Bolivia had reformed its constitution (Bolivia has seen
seventeen constitutional texts), this was the fi rst time such a body was elected under
the rules of universal adult suffrage and in the framework of a competitive electoral
democracy. 3 Popular expectations and fears were high—particularly as Morales’s
government made clear that this was not going to be merely a constitutional reform
process, but rather an ambitious attempt to “refound” the country, correcting the
“original sins” of the fi rst, postcolonial republican constitution. As such, and in
the euphoria of Morales’s recent election as Bolivia’s fi rst indigenous president,
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 92
indigenous rights—including collective political and cultural rights—were on the
agenda. In particular, Morales and his supporters sought to go further than the 1952
revolution—the reference point for transformative politics in Bolivia—by infusing a
twenty-fi rst-century multicultural sensibility. Popular expectations were tempered,
however, by the experiences of three previous assemblies. Those experiences in turn
infl uenced the strategies pursued by various actors during the 2006–2008 constitu-
tional reform process.
The Historical Context
Morales and his followers see themselves as heirs to Bolivia’s revolutionary tradition.
This tradition has two distinct elements: an indigenous resistance tradition that
harkens back to the colonial era, but includes indigenous uprisings from the nine-
teenth and twentieth centuries; and a national revolutionary tradition anchored in
the 1952 National Revolution. The vision promoted by the National Revolutionary
Movement (MNR) during the 1940s and 1950s was an ideologically vague populist
program of national unity and modernization. While it did much to improve the
lives of indigenous Bolivians, it did so without a multicultural agenda. Rather, the
MNR pursued an assimilationist agenda to transform “Indians” into “peasants” and
“integrate” them into a common (mestizo) Bolivian national identity. For much of
its history, the Bolivian Left (with its Marxist emphasis on class struggle) followed
this trajectory. While the 1970s saw the emergence of explicitly “ethnic” katarista
parties in the Andean highlands, these remained marginal political actors. Only in
the 1990s, after a lengthy decline and near political extinction, did the Bolivian Left
begin establishing signifi cant ties with the indigenous movement. By the end of the
1990s, the Bolivian Left was increasingly presenting itself in “ethno-populist” terms
(Madrid 2008). Morales and MAS are a product of this fusion, and claim both rev-
olutionary traditions.
Bolivia’s rst truly radical constitutional break came in 1938 (Barrag á n 2006,
89–90). The country’s unexpected defeat in the 1932–1935 Chaco War with Paraguay
produced a generational crisis that reverberated for decades, leading to the 1952
National Revolution. Immediately after the war, a military coup led by Germ á n
Busch launched an aggressive reformist effort. As a military dictator, Busch shut-
tered the legislature long before he called for elections for a Constituent Assembly.
That assembly was, not surprisingly, dominated by Busch allies (holding 114 of 121
seats) and moved swiftly to approve a new constitution that included signifi cant
labor rights and other features consistent with the “social constitutionalism” model
introduced in the 1917 Mexican Constitution. Although the principles of the 1938
Constitution survived the end of the Busch regime, the years following the mercu-
rial dictator’s suicide were immediately followed by a conservative restoration that
rolled back most reforms.
Another key moment includes both the 1945 Indian Congress and the paral-
lel Constitutional Convention, both held during the government of Gualberto
Villarroel (1943–1946), another reformist military dictator. Villarroel belonged to
the generational political movement (spearheaded by the newly formed MNR) and
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93 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
came to power in a joint civilian-military putsch. The importance of this moment
is paradoxical: the 1945 Indian Congress marked the fi rst time Bolivia’s indige-
nous majority was formally recognized and given a voice in the political process.
Many of the body’s resolutions—abolishing the system of pongueaje (peonage) and
other forms of obligatory labor, and granting indigenous people the right to move
freely in cities—were incorporated into constitutional law. But it is noteworthy
that the Indian Congress was separate and distinct from that year’s Constitutional
Convention. Thus, the Villarroel regime maintained the exclusion of the indigenous
majority from full and equal political participation.
Finally, the 1971 Popular Assembly left a deep mark on the psyche of the
Bolivian Left and was a signifi cant point of reference for the 2006 Constituent
Assembly. The 1971 Popular Assembly was called by another reformist military
dictator, Juan Jos é Torres (1970–1971), who came out on top in a brief but violent
confl ict between left- and right-wing forces within the military. But this assembly
had been “produced from below” (Barrag á n 2006, 110). Only months in power,
Torres was almost toppled by a right-wing military coup, and was only saved by
spontaneous popular mobilization in defense of his government. Once the coup
was put down, labor movement leaders demanded a popular assembly with sweep-
ing powers—including drafting a new constitution. The 1971 Popular Assembly
was not elected but formed by representatives of various labor and professional
sectors aligned with the Trotskyite Bolivian Workers Federation (Central Obrera
Boliviana, COB). Indigenous groups played a limited and subordinate role in the
Popular Assembly, mostly subsumed into their role as peasants. Even though Torres
granted the assembly legislative powers, it refused to support his government, call-
ing instead for the immediate establishment of a “workers’ state.” One of the body’s
rst acts was to announce a general strike, which crippled the regime and opened
the door for another conservative reaction.
Despite the key difference that all three assemblies were installed under military
dictators (rather than a democratically elected president), the lessons they imparted
to Bolivian reformers—particularly to those aligned with Evo Morales and his MAS
party—were signifi cant. The 1938 experience taught that even if “revolutionary
forces” control a Constituent Assembly, a determined reactionary opposition can
reverse its work if the revolution’s leader does not maintain close ties to and actively
mobilize popular support. The 1945 experience taught that it was not enough to
grant indigenous people “civil rights” and incorporate them into the national dia-
logue without including them directly in the political process as equals. Villarroel’s
ignominious fall in 1946 (he was dragged from the presidential palace and hanged)
offered another lesson: despite his fascist sympathies, Villarroel’s legacy was later
refurbished. While he was long a pillar in the MNR’s revolutionary pantheon,
Bolivia’s national Left also admired his national-corporatist policies, pro-labor
reforms, and anti-imperialist rhetoric. The fact that the key leftist party of the time,
the Left Revolutionary Party (Partido de Izquierda Revolucionario, PIR), played an
active role in Villarroel’s fall was a prime factor in its rapid decline—becoming a
warning about “false leftists” (or piristas ) who are manipulated into supporting con-
servative interests.
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 94
A similar lesson was learned from the 1970 experience: the unwillingness of left-
ist groups to support an existing regime—even one less radical than desired—led to
failure. By the time the 2006 Constituent Assembly was inaugurated, MAS had inter-
nalized critical lessons: division within the “popular” forces or failure to actively sup-
port Morales and his regime only strengthened entrenched conservative opposition.
It is because of this experience that Morales and his close supporters regularly stifl e
opposition within their own coalition—including indigenous communities—as
undermining the regime and facilitating the interests of the conservative opposi-
tion. From the regime’s perspective, the interests of indigenous communities need
to be balanced against the broader national interests.
All this matters because the constitutional reform efforts were not limited to
the issues of indigenous rights or multicultural recognition. Morales’s supporters
were also motivated—perhaps chiefl y so—by broad opposition to the neoliberal
status quo in place since 1985. Beginning in earnest with the 2000 “water war” in
Cochabamba, where a popular protest against the privatization of the city’s water
utility fi rst cracked the veneer of political stability that marked the posttransition
period, and carried forward through the 2003 “gas war” that toppled S á nchez de
Lozada only a year into his second presidential term, Bolivia was in a political crisis
that had not yet dissipated by 2006.
The 2003 gas war is instructive: widely understood as a popular mobilization
against S á nchez de Lozada’s neoliberal politics (specifi cally the issue of natural gas
exports to the U.S. through Chile), the confl ict was a much more complex con-
vergence of different, unrelated political forces. The fi rst stage began in July 2003,
when Aymara communities led by Felipe Quispe, leader of the Indigenous Pachakuti
Movement (Movimiento Ind í gena Pachakuti, MIP), the country’s most successful
indigenous party,
4 launched a protest against the government in defense of political
autonomy for indigenous communities. This mobilization coincided with a protest
led by the COB. It was this latter protest that raised the gas issue, as part of a broader
repudiation of neoliberal policies. The government’s heavy-handed repression of
the indigenous protest galvanized public sentiment against the regime, leading to a
cascade of mobilizations that drove S á nchez de Lozada to resign his presidency and
go into self-imposed exile in the United States. By October 2003, the confl ict was
baptized the gas war (Guerra del Gas) and framed as a national-popular uprising in
defense of the country’s national resources and in opposition to a corrupt neoliberal
regime (for an example of such an analysis, see Dangl 2007). Within this frame-
work, the role of indigenous actors was marginalized and subsumed within a larger
anti-imperialist, desarrollista perspective. By 2005, Quispe had become a marginal
gure; MIP captured only 2.2 percent of the vote and did not win a single legislative
seat in that year’s general election.
Finally, any discussion of the historical context for the Constituent Assembly
must mention the 1994 Popular Participation reforms enacted during S á nchez de
Lozada’s fi rst presidency. The 1994 Ley de Participaci ó n Popular (LPP) introduced
decentralized municipal governments, which were then incorporated into the 1995
Constitution (Articles 200–206). In addition to signifi cant autonomy, they were
guaranteed 20 percent of the state budget, distributed across all municipalities on a
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95 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
per capita basis (though this was not stipulated in the constitution, only in the LPP).
The LPP was signifi cant for two reasons. First, it was the fi rst effort by the state to
decentralize, creating constitutionally sanctioned, elected local authorities for the
rst time. Second, many of the rural municipalities were indigenous communities.
This meant that local indigenous communities won constitutionally sanctioned
autonomy in 1995 (the year the LPP went into effect and nationwide municipal
elections were fi rst held). Further, the LPP explicitly allowed for the legal recogni-
tion of comit é s de vigilancia (vigilance committees), which could be organized at the
neighborhood level, as partners in municipal government administration. The later
1996 Agrarian Reform Law (Ley INRA) went further, establishing TCOs and grant-
ing them special rights over their land and its resources. Municipal decentralization
was a boon for the indigenous movement, as indigenous parties and candidates—
who easily won control over indigenous-majority municipalities—established their
credibility as legitimate, responsible political actors. Both MAS and MIP were forged
in municipal-level contests, which became springboards to national politics (see Van
Cott 2007, 2008). It is noteworthy that in crafting the LPP, S á nchez de Lozada explic-
itly rejected department-level decentralization in favor of the more local, municipal
level. Despite its limitations (e.g., municipal governments were still bound tightly
within the framework of a unitary state), the intermediate steps introduced during
the fi rst S á nchez de Lozada presidency were a model—both for multiculturalism
and for indigenous autonomy—for the 2006 Constituent Assembly.
A Snapshot of the Constituent Assembly
By the time Morales announced elections for a constituent assembly, MAS had suc-
cessfully restructured itself into a broad, “big-tent” alliance of Left-populist forces,
in which the indigenous movement was only one component—although an impor-
tant one. The election for assembly delegates would also come on the heels of the
December 2005 general election in which Morales and MAS won an unprecedented
absolute majority (53.7 percent) of the presidential vote and secured a majority in
the lower-chamber House of Deputies (though not in the Senate).
5 From the start,
MAS made clear its goal of winning a supermajority in the Constituent Assembly,
allowing it to freely draft a new constitutional charter without interference. The
opposition, anchored by its control of the Senate and six of the country’s nine pre-
fectures, managed to wrest a number of signifi cant concessions. These set the tone
for future concessions throughout the process—many of which diluted indigenous
demands.
The Ley de Convocatoria (Ley No. 3364) of March 2006 set the guidelines,
both for the election of assembly delegates and for the body’s procedural rules.
Delegates would be elected in two tiers: 210 delegates were elected from the sev-
enty “uninominal” districts (three from each) and forty-fi ve delegates were elected
from department-wide districts.
6 No delegates were elected to explicitly represent
indigenous communities or by usos y costumbres , as had been proposed by indige-
nous leaders.
7 Additionally, seat allocation rules made it impossible for any party to
win the two-thirds supermajority required to approve a constitutional text.
8 Finally,
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 96
the opposition won an important concession regarding regional (i.e., departmen-
tal) autonomy: a referendum on regional autonomy would simultaneously be put
before voters, and the Constituent Assembly would recognize regional autonomy
for departments in which a majority voted in favor. This opened the possibility of
an asymmetrical devolution process—perhaps similar to the Spanish or British
examples. Beginning in 2004, a powerful pro-autonomy movement had emerged
in the so-called Media Luna departments of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando.
Morales and MAS opposed regional autonomy, understood as a challenge to their
broader national socioeconomic policy agenda and led by conservative elites. Based
on results of the December 2005 election, it was clear that the opposition would
do well in the Media Luna (where it won a plurality in each department) and that
voters there would back regional autonomy. Thus, the Constituent Assembly would
be a priori constrained by three realities: delegates would be elected in a traditional
manner, favoring party representation (though parties were not required to pre-
sent candidates in all districts, unlike in presidential and legislative elections); MAS
would be unable to unilaterally determine the assembly’s outcome; and the fi nal
document would recognize regional autonomy in at least some departments.
To overcome these obstacles, MAS pursued a complex strategy of recruiting a
broad range of candidates while also building alliances with smaller, independent
parties that were likely to support MAS in the assembly. This strategy was made
possible by a highly fractured political landscape. A total of twenty-fi ve parties com-
peted in the 2006 Constituent Assembly election. Of the sixteen that went on to
win at least one seat, only two could be qualifi ed as indigenous parties: Aboriginal
Popular Movement (Movimiento Originario Popular; three seats) and Movimiento
AYRA (two seats). MIP, which lost its legal recognition after the December 2005
election, did not present a list of candidates. The remaining thirteen parties repre-
sented a relatively broad ideological spectrum, including some with affi nities toward
MAS. While MAS gathered together many social movement organizations under its
umbrella, the opposition remained fragmented. PODEMOS, the principal opposi-
tion party, won the second-largest bloc of delegates—after MAS—with sixty. The
MNR did well, winning a total of twenty delegates across its three electoral fronts.
9
Three other “traditional” parties associated with the pre-Morales regime won sev-
enteen delegates.
10 A motley assortment of new parties and “civic associations”
(allowed to participate in elections under the 2004 Constitution) won the remain-
ing eighteen delegates. MAS, not surprisingly, won the lion’s share of the delegates,
with 137 (just under 54 percent).
One of the surprising features of the 2006 Constituent Assembly election was
that “indigenous peoples” (another new category introduced in the 2004 reforms
that broke political parties’ monopoly over electoral politics) did not participate
directly. Civic associations and indigenous peoples fi rst participated in the December
2004 municipal elections, and both had signifi cant successes. Nevertheless, the elec-
toral system devised for the Constituent Assembly put grassroots indigenous orga-
nizations at a tremendous disadvantage. Whereas civic associations could be quite
large, and often were formed either in large urban cities or at the departmental or
provincial level, indigenous organizations (of the kind that participated in the 2004
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97 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
municipal elections) were mostly micro-local. Because the uninominal districts used
to elect delegates were based on population distribution, nearly half were in urban
districts. The remaining rural uninominal districts often included several munici-
palities. Thus, indigenous representation in the Constituent Assembly was primarily
channeled through other political fronts—primarily (though not exclusively) MAS.
Despite the obstacles to the “direct” participation of indigenous movements, the
Constituent Assembly was remarkably diverse, according to a demographic survey of
delegates by Xavier Alb ó (2008). When asked if they identifi ed with any indigenous
community, more than half (142 of 255 delegates) did so. This made the assem-
bly’s ethnic breakdown roughly similar to that found in the 2001 Bolivian census
(see table 4.1)—though Aymara communities were noticeably underrepresented.
Although all delegates spoke Spanish, nearly two-thirds of delegates also spoke at
least one indigenous language—though many of the rest spoke only Spanish (58
delegates) or Spanish and another foreign language (46 delegates).
11 Interestingly,
more than two-thirds self-identifi ed as mestizo (178 delegates) and very few (9 del-
egates) were classifi ed as white (Alb ó included in this fi gure 3 delegates who identi-
ed themselves as “Bolivians”). The category of mestizo (which was not included
in the 2001 census) produces some interesting interactions (see Alb ó 2008, 56–60):
most delegates who self-identifi ed as Quechua preferred to also identify themselves
as mestizo rather than indigenous, while the converse was true for those who self-
identifi ed as Aymara.
Looking across party blocs, however, Alb ó (2008) found signifi cant divergence
(see table 4.2). Most delegates who self-identifi ed with one of the two Andean indig-
enous communities (Quechua and Aymara) were found within the pro-MAS bloc
of delegates. Interestingly, more than half of those who identifi ed with one of the
other (non-Andean, lowland) indigenous communities were found within the pro-
PODEMOS bloc. Not surprisingly, indigenous representation within the center
( bisagra ) bloc was about midway between the pro-MAS and pro-PODEMOS blocs.
Clearly, the pro-MAS bloc could credibly claim to represent indigenous people’s
interests, with nearly three-quarters self-identifying with an indigenous community.
Likewise, just over half of pro-MAS delegates identifi ed themselves as mestizo, in
Table 4.1 Ethnic Distribution of Constituent Assembly Delegates Compared to Overall
Population
Indigenous
Community
Self-Identifi cation Speaks Language
a
Number of
Delegates
Percentage of
Delegates
Percentage in
2001 Census
Number of
Delegates
Percentage of
Delegates
Percentage in
2001 Census
b
Quechua 81 31.8 30.7 104 40.8 19.9
Aymara 43 16.9 25.2 45 17.6 13.3
Other 18 7.1 6.1 16 6.3 1.0
None 113 44.2 38.0
a Includes those who speak two or more indigenous languages.
b The 2001 census only asked respondents about their “maternal” language; less than half of the delegates
who spoke an indigenous language learned it as a child (see Alb ó 2008, 55).
Data from Alb ó (2008) and 2001 Bolivian census.
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 98
contrast to more than 90 percent in both the pro-PODEMOS and center bloc. Alb ó
(2008) also found that pro-MAS delegates were more likely to be rural, female, or
socioeconomically disadvantaged.
A Frustrated Assembly
At the start, the Constituent Assembly had tremendous promise. Long before it was
elected, the National Electoral Court (Corte Nacional Electoral, CNE) began mas-
sive civic education campaigns to prepare Bolivians for a future constituent assem-
bly (see Ayo et al. 2007). Throughout November 2005 (a month before Morales was
elected president), the CNE organized more than fi fty mesas de di á logo , educational
presentations about past constitutional reforms and forums for participants to
deliberate about future reforms. In addition, the CNE also published several educa-
tional pamphlets, distributed as supplements in Bolivian newspapers, about various
aspects of the Constituent Assembly process and the issues and proposals before
voters. Before it formally began deliberating, groups of delegates traveled across the
country on public “listening tours.” Meanwhile, delegates began to organize them-
selves into regional or departmental caucuses, similar to those found in the legisla-
ture. Later, throughout March–April 2007, the assembly installed thirteen offi cial
“territorial forums” ( foros territoriales ), where delegates met citizens and received
proposals. All this suggested that the Constituent Assembly would be a forum for
open deliberations, producing an example of genuine reform from below.
Such aspirations were dashed, however, as internal divisions within the assembly
were augmented by a series of mass mobilizations meant to force the body to act
quickly and decisively. As early as August 2006, the country’s cocaleros (coca farm-
ers) announced they would march to Sucre to “supervise” ( scalizar ) the assembly.
The move was approved by Morales (who still headed the cocalero movement), who
Table 4.2 Ethnic Distribution (Based on Self-Identifi cation) of Constituent Assembly
Delegates across Party Blocs
Pro-MAS (%)
a Pro-PODEMOS (%)
b Center (%)
c
Self-Identifi cation with Indigenous Community
Quechua 46.2 6.8 12.5
Aymara 23.4 5.6 8.3
Other 3.2 13.7 12.5
None 25.9 74.0 66.7
By Generic Categories
Indigenous 40.5 4.1 4.2
Mestizo 57.0 90.4 91.7
White 2.5 5.5 4.2
a Includes MAS, ASP, AYRA, CN, MBL, and MOP.
b Includes PODEMOS, AAI, APB, MIR, and MNR-FRI.
c Includes AS, UN, MNR, and A3-MNR.
Data derived from Alb ó (2008).
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99 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
went on to announce in a national press conference that he had approved the initia-
tive of social movements to gather in Sucre to “control our [delegates]” (“Cocaleros
deciden ir,” 2006). In coming weeks and months, deliberations stalled repeatedly,
mostly over procedural issues, increasing public anxiety and frustration.
Part of the problem, of course, was that expectations were unrealistically high.
Many Bolivians believed a constituent assembly would somehow miraculously
solve their social, economic, and political problems—and therefore assumed
the assembly should deliberate on a wide variety of quotidian concerns. The
Constituent Assembly had also been widely imagined as the antithesis of tra-
ditional “party politics” ( partidocracia ), whose cross-partisan deal making was
viewed as symptomatic of corrupt politics. But grassroots reform projects under-
taken in the context of weak representative institutions are complicated. After two
years of near-constant political mobilization, and in the midst of one of the coun-
try’s most profound political crises, many Bolivians had little patience as assembly
delegates spent their fi rst weeks organizing offi ce space, requesting travel appro-
priations (ostensibly to visit their constituents), or demanding higher per diems
and salaries. Such impatience extended to procedural issues facing the assembly,
such as establishing a leadership structure, organizing committees, or establishing
debate rules. It took the delegates nearly four months to agree on basic delibera-
tion rules—before deadlocking on the critical question of whether a two-thirds
supermajority or merely an absolute majority of delegates would be necessary to
approve constitutional reforms.
In early deliberations, the Constituent Assembly confronted four distinct issues
that polarized debate and set the entire process on the road to failure.
12 Without
describing them in detail, it is important to enumerate them: fi rst was the question
of whether the assembly should merely modify the existing constitutional text, or
whether it should have broader, plenipotentiary powers on a level footing with the
legislature. The opposition resisted this, in large part because its control of the Senate
was a signifi cant check on Morales’s government—which would be lost in the unicam-
eral Constitutional Assembly (where MAS held a solid majority). On September 29,
delegates approved a declaration (by simple majority) that the Constituent Assembly
was “original” (and not “derived”) and could order itself without any restrictions
(including those stipulated by the Ley de Convocatoria). Opposition delegates
opposed the move, and began legal challenges before the Constitutional Tribunal
and mobilizing popular support (particularly in the Media Luna).
A second issue was the “two-thirds” question. From its conception, stipulated in
the Ley de Convocatoria, the assembly was to approve changes to the constitution
by a two-thirds supermajority. By November 17, 2006, the Constituent Assembly
approved (by simple majority) Article 71 of its deliberation rules, stipulating that
decisions would be made by simple majorities, with two exceptions: (1) the complete
nal text would require a two-thirds supermajority, and (2) any “observed” articles
for which one-third of delegates backed an alternative proposal would require a spe-
cial debate after all the other, nonobserved articles were approved. This launched a
prolonged protest from opposition delegates and their supporters, who vehemently
argued that “two-thirds is democracy.
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 100
A third issue involved regional autonomy. Although the assembly was charged
with approving regional autonomy for those departments that voted for it in the
June 2006 autonomy referendum, the issue was contested throughout the two years
the body deliberated—despite the fact that the assembly had from the start estab-
lished a working group (one of the twenty-one established October 30, 2006) specif-
ically to deal with issues of autonomy (broadly defi ned). Morales and MAS declared
that because a (narrow) majority of Bolivians had voted against regional autonomy,
the issue had been decided. Opposition-backed regional movements mobilized on
behalf of regional autonomy, demanding that their departments’ votes in favor of
autonomy (by wide majorities) be respected—as stated in the Ley de Convocatoria.
These mobilizations would eventually lead to four “wildcat” referendums (unsanc-
tioned by the CNE or Morales’s government) between May and August 2008 in
which voters in the Media Luna departments again approved departmental estatutos
auton ó micos (regional charters).
The fourth and fi nal issue was the one that broke the assembly’s back. Beginning
in March 2007, civic leaders in the city of Sucre began mobilizing to demand that the
Constituent Assembly include in its deliberations the question of moving Bolivia’s
capital back to Sucre.
13 Over several months, the capital í a movement gained trac-
tion, repeatedly disrupting the assembly’s deliberations, and even forcing the resig-
nation of the MAS prefect in favor of new elections, won by Savina Cu é llar, a MAS
Constituent Assembly delegate who switched to the opposition over the issue (see
Centellas 2010). The capital í a question became a wedge issue, as a number of MAS
delegates defected to the opposition, while PODEMOS delegates from La Paz joined
the pro-MAS majority in repeatedly tabling discussion. Though in many ways a
relatively marginal issue (when compared to the wide range of issues before the
Constituent Assembly), the capital í a movement prompted the rapid breakdown of
the assembly’s deliberations.
Ongoing protests by capital í a supporters throughout August–November 2007
shut down the Constituent Assembly, preventing further deliberations. By August
2007, most opposition delegates had walked out of the assembly. The decision to
move the assembly’s deliberations to a nearby military academy (La Glorieta) just
outside the city on November 23, 2007, met with immediate opposition. This was
aggravated when the 138 delegates (almost all from MAS and only slightly more
than half the total) assembled at La Glorieta approved a preliminary draft of the
constitution. This led pro- capital í a protestors to attack the police and pro-MAS
groups (who had come to protect the assembly), leaving three dead and at least one
hundred injured (AIN 2007).
In the aftermath of the violence, the Constituent Assembly reconvened in the city
of Oruro on December 8–9, 2007. The event was televised nationally, and counted
the participation of 164 delegates (less than two-thirds of the total). In a marathon
session lasting fourteen hours, 411 constitutional articles were rapidly read aloud,
briefl y debated, and (all but one, about the maximum size of agricultural property)
approved by two-thirds of the delegates assembled. Only days later, on the evening
of December 14, Silvia Lazarte, the Constituent Assembly president, presented the
nal document (including minor revisions) to Vice President Alvaro Garc í a Linera.
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101 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
While pro-MAS groups celebrated, opposition groups vowed to resist the “illegiti-
mate,” “blood-stained” document.
The document that went before voters more than a year later, on January 25,
2009, was not the document approved by the Constituent Assembly in Oruro. A
heavily modifi ed document was hammered out in an intense compromise nego-
tiation October 8–20, 2008, between MAS and opposition party leaders, under the
direction of Vice President Garc í a Linera, and with mediation from the Catholic
Church. This “pacted” agreement modifi ed more than one hundred articles of the
text approved in Oruro. Many of the compromises are not directly relevant for this
chapter’s discussion of multicultural rights in Bolivia (e.g., the 2007 document
established a unicameral legislature; the 2008 document retained a bicameral one).
Yet they refl ect an important pattern: Morales’s government bargained away impor-
tant preferences in favor of securing a necessary level of political stability. In the
end, after nearly two years of uncertainty and a tumultuous Constituent Assembly
process, Bolivia emerged with a new constitution that was, in many ways, only a
modifi cation of the previous charter. It was also a document drafted not, in the end,
by a plenipotentiary or original Constituent Assembly, but by roughly three dozen
or so ranking government and opposition leaders sitting behind closed doors.
MULTICULTURALISM’S ADVANCES AND LIMITATIONS
IN THE 2009 CONSTITUTION
There can be no denying that the 2009 Constitution is a signifi cant advancement for
multiculturalism in Bolivia—and for the rights of indigenous peoples in particu-
lar. Even critics of the fi nal document’s “liberal” elements recognize it as an impor-
tant “intermediate” step (Mamani Ram í rez 2010). An analysis of the multicultural
elements of the 2009 Constitution can be made along two dimensions: a symbolic
dimension, which may have limited immediate practical impact but nevertheless
signals a shift in the state’s value orientation; and an institutional dimension, which
subsequently requires additional reforms to ensure that state policies and institu-
tions are in line with constitutional directives. An example of a symbolic reform is
the incorporation of the Andean wiphala (the multicolored fl ag of the indigenous
movement) as one of the two national fl ags. An example of an institutional reform is
the recognition of indigenous autonomy and the use of usos y costumbres in such ter-
ritories. While the latter (institutional) reforms commit the state to further actions
(such as the modifi cations of statutes in the Judicial Code or to organize autonomy
referendums), the former (symbolic) reforms signal a commitment on the part of
the state to recognize and valorize the country’s cultural pluralism.
In terms of symbolic reforms, the 2009 Constitution goes signifi cantly further
than earlier texts. It begins with a 471-word preamble (earlier documents simply
started at Article 1) that presents a sweeping cultural history of the country from
the creation of the world, a summary of values and principles, and a declaration in
the voice of the Constituent Assembly of having upheld its duty, “strengthened by
the Pachamama and thanks to God,” to “refound” the country. The preamble even
includes a single-sentence paragraph declaring, “We leave in the past the colonial,
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 102
republican, neoliberal State.” Beyond the terse repudiation of the earlier (“colonial,
republican, neoliberal”) state, the preamble sets a clear tone of pluralistic inclusion—
particularly with regard to the country’s pre-Columbian traditions—now seen as
integral to the country’s historical fabric and projecting the existence of “Bolivia” to
a timeless past, predating the Spanish conquest and colonialism.
From there, the document launches into a substantially restructured opening
Articles 1–6 (see appendix A). The 1995 Constitution had previously made symbolic
changes to Article 1, declaring Bolivia “multiethnic and pluricultural” and “founded
on the union and solidarity of all Bolivians.” The 2009 text signifi cantly expands
this, declaring Bolivia a “plurinational communitarian” state, founded on “political,
economic, juridical, cultural, and linguistic pluralism.” Previous versions of Article
2 (on sovereignty) and Article 4 (on representation) were removed; the issue of sov-
ereignty was moved into the subsequent section of the constitution (and revised to
make clear that sovereignty rested in the people, not their representatives); the issue
of representation was not reintroduced in its previous formulation. The following
articles introduced sweeping symbolic changes: recognition of indigenous commu-
nities with right to autonomy, ancestral territory, and cultural institutions (Article
2); recognition of Bolivia as composed of its various indigenous “nations and peo-
ples,” intercultural communities, and Afro-Bolivians (Article 3);
14 establishment of a
secular state with freedom of religion, including “spiritual beliefs according to one’s
worldview [ cosmovisiones ]” (Article 4); recognition (and enumeration) of thirty-six
indigenous languages that are (in addition to Spanish) offi cial languages, and the
stipulation that every level of government must use at least two offi cial languages
(Article 5); and an enumeration (absent in previous constitutions) of the national
symbols, including the wiphala and the kantuta and patuj ú owers (Article 6).
This was shortly followed by Article 8, which enumerates the state’s social values—
including values and principles derived from the Aymara, Quechua, and Guaran í
traditions. 15
Such symbolic changes were a substantial leap from the pre-1995 constitutional
tradition—which did not acknowledge the existence of indigenous or other cultural
communities—limited to enumerating liberal or republican principles of represen-
tation, organizing formal political institutions, and framing the country’s economic
and social structure. The 1995 Constitution recognized the country’s cultural plu-
ralism but did little to promote indigenous cultural or political rights. In fact, the
1995 Constitution explicitly mentioned indigenous peoples only three times, in
Article 171, which dealt exclusively with “agrarian and peasant” issues. That article
recognized the right of indigenous peoples to cultural lands, as well as to the con-
tinued use of their culture, language, and traditions on those lands; it also recog-
nized the “jurisdictional personhood” of indigenous communities and the use of a
community’s traditional costumbres to dictate communal norms or to appoint their
leaders (so long as they conformed with the constitution). In contrast, the 2009
Constitution explicitly mentions indigenous peoples 128 times (not including the
preamble) and in a wide range of contexts.
Institutionally, the 2009 Constitution includes three signifi cant changes that
substantially expand the almost exclusively symbolic multiculturalism of the 1995
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103 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
and 2004 Constitutions.
16 The rst is the recognition of indigenous autonomy as a
distinct—yet equal—category, separate from municipal, regional, or departmental
autonomy. The second is the establishment of special indigenous electoral districts.
The third is the recognition of indigenous jurisdictional competence as distinct
from, and equal to, the “ordinary” justice system. Despite the fanfare surrounding
these three important changes, it is here that the view of the 2009 Constitution as
a sweeping alteration of political power in favor of Bolivia’s indigenous majority
begins to break down. Even before the “pacted” modifi cations to the text, many
proposals put forward by the indigenous movement had been scaled down, leaving
Pablo Mamani Ram í rez to conclude that “liberal principles are placed above com-
munitarian indigenous principles” (2010, 707, my translation).
Although indigenous autonomy is recognized in the 2009 Constitution—
ostensibly on equal terms with other forms of territorial autonomy—implemen-
tation is problematic, fi rst, because the framework for autonomies begins with the
principle of respecting departmental boundaries. This is made explicit regarding the
new intermediate category of regional autonomy (see Article 280), which can only
be formed by a joining of municipalities within a department; likewise, municipali-
ties must be contained within departmental boundaries. The articles dealing explic-
itly with indigenous autonomy (Articles 289 and 296) are silent on the issue,
17 but
the language in this section repeatedly mentions municipalities—which, in practice,
became the basic units for indigenous communities. There is a possibility that indig-
enous communities that cross departmental lines (as many do) could come together
and win legal recognition (since Articles 289 and 290 make clear that indigenous
autonomy is based on “ancestral territories”), but the overall constitutional language
makes department boundaries inviolable.
The impact of special indigenous electoral districts is paradoxical. The 2009
Constitution creates such districts and describes their purpose (Articles 146 and
147), but does not enumerate them—leaving that to the new Plurinational Electoral
Organ (formerly the CNE). Indigenous leaders demanded fi fteen special reserved
seats for indigenous communities, but the 2009 legislative elections included only
seven such districts (one in each of the country’s departments, minus Potos í and
Chuquisaca). Additionally, special indigenous districts were reserved for indigenous
communities that are minorities within departments, using data from the 2001
census and the registry of TCOs. This meant that no special indigenous districts
were reserved for Quechua or Aymara communities (under the assumption that
ethnic Quechua and Aymara voters can easily elect representatives in rural uninom-
inal districts in which they comprised substantial majorities). Special indigenous
districts also explicitly could not cross department lines, were limited to rural areas,
and included more than one indigenous community (since all recognized indig-
enous communities within a department were lumped together). Further, elections
in special indigenous representatives were uniform, using simple majority (or “fi rst
past the post”—FPTP). Many indigenous leaders objected, arguing that the reforms
only included indigenous representatives as token minorities. That objection, how-
ever, should be placed in the context of a broader electoral system in which indig-
enous candidates already had a record of winning elections outright in uninominal
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 104
contests—as well as through the “plurinominal” (PR) lists for deputies and senators.
The criticism is valid, however, since the FPTP electoral system used—rather than
any recourse to usos y costumbres —made the districts merely additional uninominal
districts (a form of political affi rmative action quota system). The reality on the
ground also seemed to preference large parties. Although the electoral law allows
for politically organized “indigenous communities” to campaign for offi ce, all seven
special indigenous representatives were elected as representatives of MAS and the
opposition PPB-CN (the current principal opposition electoral vehicle).
Another key problem with indigenous autonomy is its territorial restriction.
Repeatedly—both in the 2009 Constitution and in the supplemental legal frame-
work (such as the 2009 electoral law)—preexisting departmental boundaries are
sacrosanct. This means that indigenous communities are constrained by political
boundaries that had not historically taken them into account. Further, the key ele-
ment of indigenous autonomy—the use of usos y costumbres —was restricted to
“rural” areas. Critics rightly pointed out that this essentially restricts “indigeneity”
to a rural context, ignoring the reality that a sizeable share of Bolivia’s indigenous
population today is urban—or that many of the country’s major cities (including
El Alto, La Paz, and Cochabamba) now have indigenous majorities. Thus, taken
together, the 2009 Constitution and subsequent regulatory laws recognize the cul-
tural rights of Bolivia’s indigenous majorities, but grants them political rights only
within a rural context.
Finally, a key constraint facing indigenous autonomy in Bolivia is the recogni-
tion of strong departmental governments—a clear victory for the regionalist move-
ments of the Media Luna. The 2008 congressional comprise introduced a number
of signifi cant amendments to the draft constitution that strengthened regional gov-
ernments, expanding their jurisdictional competencies. While Article 276 clearly
states that the various autonomous units (departments, regions, municipalities, and
indigenous communities) are of “equal constitutional rank” and not hierarchically
subordinated, the reality is that they are. The 2009 Constitution grants departments
a total of thirty-six exclusive (not shared) jurisdictional competencies, including the
following policy areas: human development, labor, energy and transportation, regu-
lations over social organizations or NGOs that operate in their territory, sanitation,
cultural patrimony, participation in state enterprises active in their territory, and
foreign investment. Since all regions, municipalities, and indigenous communities
are explicitly constrained within departmental boundaries, this implies their subor-
dination to departmental jurisdiction in a wide range of areas.
In the end, the 2009 Constitution was not the promised radical refounding of a
postcolonial republic. The explicit recognition of existing departmental boundar-
ies precluded a number of alternatives. The reformulation of departmental bound-
aries was never seriously discussed—and the 2009 Constitution shut the door on
any such future discussion, leaving only the possibility of (de facto subordinate)
autonomy for regions within the departments. Likewise, the basic structure of
government remained unchanged. Bolivia retained a presidential system with
a runoff system (introduced in the 2004 Constitution), a bicameral legislature
(though the Senate was expanded), and a mixed-member proportional electoral
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105 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
system. Beyond a number of symbolic reforms that recognized Bolivia’s indig-
enous peoples, their history, and their culture, most multicultural reforms in the
constitution limited the sphere of indigenous politics to rural, small-scale com-
munities. What the 2009 Constitution did produce—which is a signifi cant break
from Bolivia’s political tradition—is a “federalized” (or devolved) state, but one
giving signifi cant weight to departmental autonomy. The autonomy of smaller
subnational units—municipalities and indigenous TCOs—is more fragile and, as
the TIPNIS example suggests, in practice tends to privilege the interests of the
central state’s national development agenda.
CONCLUSION: IS BOLIVIA’S NEW CONSTITUTIONAL
FRAMEWORK CONSOCIATIONAL?
It is diffi cult to place Bolivia’s current political system within the power sharing
or consociational model—particularly in relation to ethnic or indigenous commu-
nities and the state. Certainly, the devolved jurisdictional authorities specifi ed for
the various levels of autonomy (department, region, municipality, and indigenous
community) suggest that Bolivia’s previously unitary state is now sharing power
by dispersing signifi cant policy- and decision-making authority. In reality, ultimate
authority still resides very clearly in the central government, not autonomous sub-
units. One clear example is the 2010 anticorruption law, which strips any elected
offi cial of his or her position if state prosecutors raise formal charges. In principle,
the law is meant to give elected offi cials a chance to defend themselves at trial with-
out interfering with their duties; in reality, the law has been used to reverse opposi-
tion gains at the ballot.
Arend Lijphart’s model of consociational democracy includes four key princi-
ples: grand coalition, autonomy, proportionality, and minority veto (Lijphart 2007,
7). Of these, only autonomy is clearly represented in the 2009 Constitution—though
in a slightly more limited form than the kind envisioned by Lijphart, who clearly had
in mind a more federal system—in which states shared sovereignty (not just com-
petencies) with the central state. If anything, Bolivia has consistently moved away
from the other three principles in the last several years. The 1995 electoral reform
that introduced the mixed-member proportional electoral system was a shift away
from PR and toward FPTP (a typically majoritarian electoral system). In the inter-
vening years, the reduction of PR seats in the lower house has meant a continued
shift further toward a majoritarian electoral system. Similarly, the 2009 Constitution
introduced a runoff system for president (as well as for governors and mayors—
who are now elected directly).
18 This was a decisive shift away from the previous
system, in which presidents were elected by a legislative vote (in the case no candi-
date won an absolute majority—which did not happen in any election between 1979
and 2002). This “parliamentarized presidential” system (Mayorga 1997) relied on
broad, multiparty coalition cabinets (a consociational feature). Since 2005, Bolivia
has been governed by a single-party government for the fi rst time since its transition
to democracy (signaling a move toward majoritarianism). Last, minority veto has
never been part of Bolivia’s institutional framework.
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 106
Looking at the ten variables included in Lijphart’s (1999) description of con-
sensus democracy, we again see evidence of Bolivia moving away from—rather
than closer to—this model. The strengthening of the presidency, which is now
clearly independent from the legislature (see Centellas 2008), shows a concentra-
tion of executive power. Morales is a much more powerful president than any
of his predecessors. He may be no more of a caudillo within his own party than
previous leaders (Banzer over ADN, S á nchez de Lozada over MNR, or Jaime Paz
Zamora over MIR)—but these others all secured the presidency only after forg-
ing alliances (“pacts”) with their rivals, establishing multiparty coalition cabi-
nets. Bolivia has not yet moved clearly to a two-party system, but it is no longer
a truly multiparty system, either. Increasing polarization has created the building
blocks for a future two-party system, though Bolivia is today best described as a
“dominant-party” system. The system for interest group representation is more
diffi cult to classify, since MAS is a corporatist alliance of various social move-
ments, unions, and civic organizations (including indigenous communities) tied
together by the personality of Evo Morales (see Stefanoni 2010). But Morales’s
government has seen independent interest groups—even those that are compo-
nent parts of the MAS “big-tent” alliance—challenge the state directly with a
wide variety of demands. This suggests that interest group pluralism is alive and
well in Bolivia.
Along the fi ve variables associated with the “federal-unitary” dimension of
Lijphart’s (1999) consensus democracy model, there are some positive signs.
Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution is a radical departure from the unitary model and may
lead to a more strongly devolved—even federal—future Bolivian state. The reten-
tion of a bicameral legislature is one variable in which Bolivia did not move toward
majoritarianism. The rest of this dimension is mixed, however. Ostensibly the cen-
tral banks and judiciary remain independent, from both the executive and legislative
branches of government, but the reality is that both are strongly controlled by the
executive. Likewise, the constitution continues to dictate the need for supermajori-
ties on key policy areas or for major issues (such as revisions to the constitution), yet
experience has shown that MAS attempts to govern with few constraints.
The way the 2009 Constitution emerged, however, offers an interesting example
of the possibilities of informal consociationalism in Bolivia. On the one hand, the
formal process showed signifi cant majoritarian tendencies—as the MAS majority
tried to sideline the opposition. Much of the blame can be handed to the opposi-
tion, of course, which used a variety of tactics to stall the process and showed itself
willing to engage in brinksmanship. But some of this may have been unnecessary if
MAS delegates accepted that a consensus would require the very kind of despised
“pacts” that were common during the 1985–2002 period. In the end, ironically, the
process was rescued by an extrainstitutional negotiation carried out largely behind
closed doors in meetings in which the opposition was overrepresented. Most polit-
ical actors broadly saw the fi nal text of the 2009 Constitution as legitimate precisely
because it was hammered out through the kind of “grand bargaining” envisioned
by Lijphart. But there are no institutional guarantees that future divisive issues will
receive similar treatment.
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107 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
Looking explicitly at the relationship between Bolivia’s indigenous peoples and
the state, there is little evidence of a multicultural consociational model. Indigenous
peoples are now constitutionally granted autonomy, but in a rather limited way: it
is restricted by preexisting territorial boundaries; it is limited to small rural com-
munities; it places signifi cant restrictions on the use of usos y costumbres ; and it
does not grant communities veto rights on decisions involving their resources. The
restrictions on usos y costumbres are both complex and problematic. Like people
in many other countries, Bolivians have been forced to wrestle with potential con-
icts between practices that fall under usos y costumbres and their commitments
to human rights. Thus, for example, one can understand restrictions on the use of
capital or corporal punishments—a practice sometimes defended as falling under
the category of usos y costumbres . However, it is less understandable why far less
controversial elements of usos y costumbres —such as traditional ways of selecting
community leaders—should be brushed aside. This is particularly puzzling when it
comes to electoral representation.
National-level elections do little to promote a consociational mode of politics
for two reasons. First, representatives from all seven special indigenous districts
are elected using simple plurality, in competitive multiparty elections. Since these
districts comprise two or more distinct indigenous communities, rival commu-
nities will inevitably challenge each other. Without any consociational electoral
mechanism—such as the use of preferential voting methods recommended for
ethnically plural societies (Reilly 2002)—this is a recipe for the largest group to
dominate. Further, the experience of the 2009 legislative election suggests that these
special districts are little more than additional uninominal districts. All seven dis-
tricts were won by one of the two major parties (six by MAS, one by the opposi-
tion PPB-CN). The experience of the uninominal districts in Bolivia also does not
support a consociational mode of politics. The use of single-member districts in
which representatives are elected by plurality is the most traditional of majoritar-
ian electoral systems. The changes to the senatorial electoral rules do not seem to
alter the balance signifi cantly: senators are still elected from multimember districts
(increased in number from three to four) with a system that privileges any district’s
dominant party.
Even within autonomous indigenous communities, the new institutional rules
do not seem to actively encourage consociationalism. Eleven municipalities voted in
2009 (in a referendum attached to the December 2009 general election) to declare
themselves autonomous indigenous communities. Soon after, many went forward
with steps to select their own authorities using usos y costumbres . Surprisingly, the
Morales government intervened, requiring all eleven newly recognized autonomous
indigenous communities to participate in the April 2010 municipal elections—and
to use the same electoral system as all other municipalities. This is particularly ironic
because many of the methods of electing leaders within these communities were
much closer to the consociational model: Using usos y costumbres , communities
had named governing councils that would explicitly include a representative from
each of the various subgroups within their community. Instead, these autonomous
indigenous communities were forced to use an electoral system that defi ned politics
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Multicultural and Autonomy Movements in the Andes 108
as interparty competition. Following the law, these communities created and regis-
tered “indigenous communities” with the electoral court with slates comprised of
the leaders they had chosen by usos y costumbres . These slates then faced off against
other legally recognized electoral vehicles—including MAS. The resulting electoral
campaigns tore many communities apart, particularly after results left some groups
excluded from representation.
The 2009 Bolivian Constitution is a signifi cant advance in the recognition of
Bolivia’s multiculturalism. It also marks a signifi cant—albeit incomplete—depar-
ture from the country’s centralist tradition as a unitary state. But it is diffi cult to
qualify the emerging model as one of consociational politics. In various forms, the
electoral system continues to encourage interest group fragmentation. And while
MAS has evolved into a party that may be described internally as consociational (in
terms of its internal party organization—although the dominant role played by Evo
Morales casts a signifi cant shadow), the party does not include all relevant political
sectors—which are left out and increasingly marginalized. If anything, the last few
years have seen Bolivia move further toward a majoritarian model of democracy,
rather than toward one based on power sharing or consociationalism. This is par-
ticularly true when it comes to Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, who are now better
recognized and included in the political process, but still enjoy only limited (albeit
expanded) political autonomy.
NOTES
1 . These and all subsequent election results come from CNE (2010).
2 . A third, but relatively minor set of reforms was enacted in 2002.
3 . Delegates to previous constitutional conventions had been elected indirectly and/or with
the franchise limited to literate men. The 1967 convention was the fi rst after universal
adult suffrage was installed, but it took place under a military dictatorship.
4 . MIP was the rst explicitly ethnic indigenous party to win more than 2 percent of the
vote in a national election, winning 6.1 percent and placing fi fth in the 2002 contest.
5 . The electoral formula used to elect senators (three per department, with the fi rst-place
party winning two seats and the second-place party automatically winning the third
seat, on the basis of that department’s presidential vote) favored the opposition. Despite
winning only 28.6 percent of the vote, the principal opposition party, Democratic and
Social Power (Poder Democr á tico y Social, PODEMOS), won thirteen seats in the
twenty-seven-member Senate. In contrast, MAS, with 53.7 percent of the vote, won only
twelve seats; two other opposition parties won the two remaining seats.
6 . The uninominal single-member districts were introduced in the 1995 electoral system
reforms that shifted Bolivia from a list-PR to a mixed-member proportional electoral
system. The use of the term “uninominal” to refer to districts that elected multiple rep-
resentatives is, strictly speaking, incorrect. But the term is widely used in Bolivia to refer
to those districts.
7 . For example, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (Confederaci ó n de
Pueblos Ind í genas de Bolivia) proposed two seats per uninominal district, plus an addi-
tional sixty-eight seats elected in specifi cally ethnic districts using usos y costumbres . A
number of other indigenous organizations backed the proposal, or presented alternative
proposals that similarly included specifi cally reserved seats for indigenous peoples to be
lled according to their community’s usos y costumbres (see Cordero 2005, 71–81).
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109 Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution
8 . Seats were allocated as follows: in uninominal districts, two seats would go to the fi rst-place
party, with the second-place party winning the remaining seat. In department-wide dis-
tricts, the fi rst-place party would win three seats, with the second- and third-place parties
winning the remaining seats. Even if one party placed fi rst in each district, it could only
win 167 of 255 seats (65.4 percent), falling short of the 169 required for a supermajority.
9 . The MNR competed in all nine departments, but ran under different banners (repre-
senting different regional alliances) in Santa Cruz (where it ran as A3-MNR) and Tarija
(where it ran as MNR-FRI). MNR won eight delegates (seven in Beni, one in Pando);
MNR-FRI won eight delegates in Tarija; A3-MNR won two delegates in Santa Cruz.
10 . These were MBL, a center-left party that had been part of the MNR-led coalition that
had nominated S á nchez de Lozada in the 2002 presidential election (it won eight del-
egates); UN, a relatively new party founded in 2004 by a Bolivian business magnate
with long-standing ties to the center-left party MIR (eight delegates); and the party of
former president Jaime Paz Zamora, MIR (one delegate).
11 . Perhaps as a sig n of the body’s cosmopolitanism, thirty-two delegates (12.5 percent) reported
speaking Spanish, an indigenous language, and a foreign language. This meant that a total of
seventy-eight delegates (nearly a third of the assembly) spoke a foreign language.
12 . For a chronology, see Carrasco and Alb ó (2008), included in a special double issue of
T’inkazos devoted entirely to the Constituent Assembly.
13 . Sucre had been the original capital of Bolivia until 1899, when the seat of government
was moved to La Paz at the end of the 1898–1899 Federalist War. Sucre has remained
the judicial capital, housing the Supreme Court.
14 . This is the rst time the Afro-Bolivian community was ever included in a constitutional
text. The 2009 Constitution mentions them explicitly in three other places: Article 32
(in the section on indigenous and campesino communities), Article 100 (in the section
on cultures), and Article 395 (in the section on land and territory).
15 . These are Ama qhilla, ama llulla, ama suwa (Quechua for “don’t be lazy, don’t lie, don’t
steal”); Suma qama ñ a (Aymara for “live well”); Ñ adereko, teko kavi, ivi maraei (Guaran í
for “harmony, good life, good earth”); and Qhapaj ñ an (Quechua for “noble path”).
16 . The 2004 Constitution expanded indigenous rights only by granting “indigenous com-
munities” the right to participate in elections. They were still required, however, to
register with the CNE.
17 . Curiously, this section does not immediately follow the sections on departmental,
regional, and municipal autonomy, but rather falls between the sections on executive
(Articles 285 and 286) and legislative (Articles 287 and 288) organs for autonomous
governments, and the section on the distribution of competencies between the four
kinds of autonomous units and the central government (Articles 297–305).
18 . When municipal elections were introduced in 1995, voters cast ballots only for a party
list of municipal council candidates. The newly elected municipal council then chose a
mayor from among its members (essentially, a parliamentary system on a small scale).
As in presidential elections, if no party list won an absolute majority of the votes, mayors
were chosen from multiparty coalitions. The introduction of separate, direct elections for
mayors moved municipal governments from a parliamentary model to a presidential one.
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... 42 For more on the violence of this period, see Barndt (2012). 43 For more on these negotiations, see Zegada (2010) and Centellas (2013). 44 Interviews with a former national deputy representing the department of Santa Cruz, September 1, 2012 and February 7, 2014, Santa Cruz (Interviews B35 and B36). ...
... But "the policy framework and practice of indigenous autonomy increasingly appear to be restricted by the logic and goals of the state"-specifically, to the continued pursuit of economic development based on resource extraction (Tockman and Cameron 2014, 48). Centellas (2013) offers a more favorable interpretation of autonomy in the 2009 Constitution, pointing out that the symbolic reforms reset the terms of indigenous rights debates, and that the autonomy provisions were stronger than anything Bolivia had adopted previously. Nevertheless, Centellas argues that state actors' refusal to consider jurisdictional boundary changes severely restricted the ability of most indigenous communities to carve out any autonomous space. ...
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Political scientists have long theorized that the use of Òpreferential Ó election systems can help promote successful conflict management in divided societies.As it turns out,evidence from five real-world cases supports this conclusion.
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Journal of Democracy 8.1 (1997) 142-156 Students of Latin America have long viewed Bolivia as the land par excellence of political instability and military coups. The violence that accompanied the country's transition to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s enhanced this negative image, and nearly obscured from memory the extended periods of peaceful civilian government that Bolivia has enjoyed, first from 1880 to 1930, and then again from 1952 to 1964. The years from 1978 to 1982 were a time of severe political turmoil, economic catastrophe, and state disintegration. Two constitutionally chosen provisional governments were overthrown, and no fewer than five military governments held power. "Bolivianization" became a byword for political and social decomposition. The reversal of this dismal course was accomplished in no small part because of lessons learned during the failed 1982-85 administration of President Hernán Siles Zuazo, who had twice before served as Bolivia's chief executive and who acceded to the office for the third time in 1982 when the military handed power back to the Congress that had been elected in 1980. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Bolivia underwent a political and economic sea change -- a silent revolution, really -- that laid the foundations for a redefinition of the state and the erection of a distinctive political system. The change, moreover, not only greatly enhanced governability and political stability, but made these conditions self-enforcing in ways that could not even have been imagined at the start of the transition process. As Scott Mainwaring has pointed out, Latin American politics often features a "difficult equation" in which presidentialism is uneasily coupled with fragmented multipartism and proportional representation (rather than with a two-party, majoritarian system, as in the United States). The resulting immobilism has perennially cast a shadow over prospects for democratic institutionalization in the countries of the region. Bolivia, happily, seems to have found a way to escape the pattern of noninstitutionalization leading to delegative democracy that Guillermo O'Donnell discerns in Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. Although Colombia and Venezuela experienced coalition governments at various times from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s and Chile has had them as a result of preelectoral bargaining since the return of civilian rule in 1989, the case of Bolivia remains unique in the region. Although not yet mature enough to be available as a model for imitation, Bolivia's system of interparty bargaining, postelectoral coalitions, consensual practices, and congressional election of the chief executive promises to have profound implications for the theory and practice of representative democracy in Latin America. Bolivia's economy has now gone from "basket case" to "showcase" after the successful implementation of structural adjustment reforms in a democratic setting. Inflation went from 25,000 percent in 1985 to 96 percent a year later, and then subsequently plummeted to 3 percent. The GDP, which had begun falling in 1978, grew 2.7 percent in 1987 and about 3 percent in 1989. The national budget deficit, equal to more than a quarter of GNP in 1984, fell to 3 percent by 1988. Exports recovered to $813 million in 1989, after falling as low as $500 million in 1985. Bolivia's polity has not yet attracted as much attention -- scholars usually cast it as an anomaly if they discuss it at all -- but that may change. Bolivia's years of dramatic and conflict-ridden transition were also years of great learning leading to institutional reforms. These reforms in turn set the stage for an increase in consensualism and a decrease in the prevalence of confrontational politics. Although confrontation has not disappeared, a number of major issues have been resolved by two-thirds votes of both houses of Congress, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. After assimilating the hard lessons of the Siles Zuazo years and their failed left-wing populism, Bolivia began to turn itself around. The first step was the successful implementation of the market-based New Economic Policy (NEP) starting under the administration of President Víctor Paz Estenssoro (1985-89). This was all the more remarkable because Paz Estenssoro and his Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) had been at the head of the...