Let's Get the Constituent Assembly Rolling

As one of the five priorities set by Carlos Mesa after the latest political crisis, the Constituent Assembly is gathering steam. There are many things to decide long before the Assembly convenes to rewrite the Constitution, including timeframe, number of delegates, and the timing of the Referendum on autonomies.

However, any move made by the President or the Unidad de Coordinación para la Asamblea Constituyente (UCAC), a special commission headed by delegate Ricardo Paz, will sure to draw a watchful eye.

This is a monumental task that requires concessions from both the left and the right, even though each side believes their ideas are the only ones that count. Paz will work closely with Senator Carlos Sandy (MAS – Oruro), head of the Comisión Especial de Congeso (CECAC), with the objective of “opening a the most democratic and participative process in the republican history of the country: the Constituent Assembly.”

Easier said than done.

The leaders of the Civic Committees in Santa Cruz are already crying foul. They’ve apparently found a new public enemy no. 1 in Paz, who they accuse of being a “anti-Cruceño manipulator

Pointing to a visit by Paz to San Julian, a small town in the Santa Cruz Department. The newspaper El Nuevo Dia decided to interpret Paz’s words for him.

Ricardo Paz Ballivián, coordinador para la Asamblea Constituyente y hombre de confianza de Carlos Mesa, fue duramente criticado por la dirigencia cívica y un analista cruceño. Ambos consideraron que su actuación en el desbloqueo de San Julián sólo perjudicará las negociaciones entre Santa Cruz y el Gobierno. Paz felicitó a los campesinos por el bloqueo de tres días “en defensa de la democracia”,

Notice how the newspaper managed only to quote “in defense of democracy” and not the words where Paz supposedly congratulated the campesinos for blockading the road. Even in other news sources, there was no sign of the exact quote. Most likely Paz congratulated the campesinos for standing up for autonomies within the context of a new Constitution, and not through a populist mega-propaganda-fueled party that took place last month.

The commission is studying proposals regarding the number of delegates to the Assembly. Based on Census numbers from 2001, the Department with the highest population (because it has two of the top four cities in terms of population) is La Paz, with the highest number of delegates, followed by Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. Their proposal will sure to draw criticisms from minority groups, who may have more economic power but clearly do not have the comparable numbers.

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