Bolivia Ratifies New Constitution
A victory for indigenous people
In a national referendum on January 25th, Bolivia's new constitution finally gained approval after a long and contentious campaign. The new constitution unequivocally overturns centuries of indigenous oppression. It addresses the historic marginalization of the indigenous majority in numerous ways; it broadens the definition of property to include communal ownership; recognizes indigenous systems of justice; establishes broader access to basic services, education, and healthcare; and reserves congressional seats for indigenous people so that they can fully participate in Bolivian politics.
Hunger Project partner ACLO (Fundación Acción Cultural Loyola) worked tirelessly in an immensely challenging environment to support this important development. Rafael García Mora, SJ, Director General of ACLO, puts the achievement in context:
Approval of the constitution represents for Bolivians a leap into modernity. Paradoxically, the jump is precisely when the government is led by a President of indigenous origin, which for many people is synonymous with backwardness....With this constitution is a recognition that Bolivia is made up of a variety of nations and peoples...It's a change that, by recognizing and respecting rights and social issues, seeks the reconciliation of all the Bolivian people.
Although overjoyed by the victory, Mr. Mora acknowledges that this is only a beginning; Bolivia's congress still has to draft legislation to accompany the constitution's articles and, of course, it remains to be seen whether the new dictates will be enforced. He writes:
The challenge will be for Bolivian women and men to make this new constitution not just a beautiful set of statements, but a foundation for building a future of justice, harmony, and progress.