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Bacchus39 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 12:06 AM
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Key elements of new Bolivian constitution, community justice?????
Judi was kind enough to provide these elements of the proposed constitution. However, please read the list and the following a little long article on the meaning of "community justice". Looks like an interesting Bolivia blog. don't forget to read some of the comments.

Key elements of new Bolivian constitution being voted on Sunday
By the Associated Press
4:11 PM EST, January 23, 2009

Key elements in the proposed constitution going before Bolivian voters Sunday:

RE-ELECTION: Presidents can serve two consecutive five-year terms. Current constitution permits two terms, but not consecutive. Morales could thus remain in office through 2014.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS: Recognizes self-determination of 36 distinct Indian "nations." Sets aside seats in Congress for minority indigenous groups but not for the Aymara and Quechua, who together comprise the majority in Bolivia's western highlands.

LAND: Voters decide in the referendum whether future land ownership should be capped at 12,000 or 24,000 acres (5,000 or 10,000 hectares). Current holdings are grandfathered in. The state can seize land that doesn't perform a "social function" or was fraudulently obtained.

JUSTICE: Judges on Bolivia's highest court are elected rather than appointed by the president as current law provides. The state recognizes indigenous groups' practice of "community justice" based traditional customs.

LOCAL AUTONOMY: Eastern lowland provinces can set up state assemblies that control local issues, but not land reform or natural gas revenues. Indigenous groups are granted self-rule on traditional lands inside existing states. All autonomies have "equal rank."

NATURAL RESOURCES: The state controls all mineral and oil and gas reserves. Indigenous groups get control of all renewable resources on their land. Water is a fundamental human right that cannot be controlled by private companies.

Community Justice in Bolivia: Beyond the Misconceptions

Buried in the heated debate over Bolivia's proposed new Constitution are the details of what that new political foundation would include. One of the most visible demands that has been woven into MAS' proposed Constitution is to move Bolivia toward being a "plurinational" nation, in which many diverse culture's and ethnicities reside side by side, but with a certain new measure of independence and self-government. And chief among those aspects of independence is to allow indigenous communities to weave into existing traditional justice systems (courts, prosecutors, police) systems of "community justice".

But what is "community justice"? Far too often, critics or those just uneducated about the term, have tried to equate it with vigil antiism or lynching. To be certain, incidents of Bolivians taking justice into their own hands including the recent case of three police officers killed by an angry mob amidst accusations of corruption are plentiful in Bolivia, and tragic. But mob justice and community justice are not the same thing, not by a long shot.

To shed light on this important issue we bring you a post from two members of The Democracy Center team, Aldo Orellana and Yi-Ching Hwang. For readers interested in a more general report on Constitutional reform in Bolivia, we encourage you to have a look at The Democracy Center briefing paper on the issue, Re-Founding Bolivia: A Nation's Struggle Over Constitutional Reform (available here).

Jim Shultz

Community Justice in Bolivia: Beyond the Misconceptions

Last August, as Bolivia's Constituent Assembly debated the outlines of a new national Constitution, more than 100 indigenous leaders and representatives pressed a demand that the new plan formally recognize and legalize "judicial pluralism" and "community justice" as a key element. But what, exactly, does "community justice" mean in Bolivia?

A System with Deep Historic Roots

Community justice in its traditional form in indigenous Andean villages...emphasizes reconciliation and rehabilitation," explains Daniel Goldstein, Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Rutgers University, who has researched the topic extensively in Bolivia over a decade. "Rather than violent torture and execution, community justice promotes the 'reeducation' of community members who violate collective norms and rules, and the reincorporation of these offenders back into the community.

In the eyes of its supporters, it is a move toward using dialog, community service work, and the restoration of harmony as a basis for dealing with conflicts. In other words, if you steal your neighbor's cow you might be required to help lay bricks for a school as opposed to being turned over to police and prosecutors many miles away.

To its critics it is a license for violence and brutality against those suspects of offending community sensibilities. Or in other words, you steal a cow and you get beaten for it.

One of those critics, the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, has warned that Bolivian Constitutional proposals for community justice will, endanger some of the fundamental rights of Bolivian citizens

But backers of the plan argue that such a foreign view of the issue disregards the cultural wealth that highlights ancient Andean traditions and customs. They argue that statements like those from the HRF fail to consider the role community justice has played for centuries in Bolivias Andean culture, with or without legal recognition, and its role in maintaining harmony and justice in communities far removed from cities where the formal judicial system takes place.

Critics have been quick to cite recent lynching incidents in Bolivia as evidence of what community justice would mean if fully implemented. But Bolivia's Minister of Community Justice, Valentn Ticona, insists that the linkage is a false one and that, in fact, the fundamental principle of the community justice system is respect for the human life.

An interesting exchange of letters between the HRF and the Bolivian government on the topic of community justice and lynching can be found on the HRF website.

Community Justice vs. Lynching

Rose Mary Acha, a Bolivian attorney and researcher who has investigated the topic for many years, defines lynching as all acts done with ones own hands to bring about justice . This haphazard, usually mob-driven, approach to justice stands in stark contrast, she argues, to community justice in which there are principles and procedures...rules to the game just like any other system. It is not just grab and hit, added Acha.

At the end of February, in the small town of Epizana on the old Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway about two hours outside of the city of Cochabamba, three police officers became the bloody victims of Bolivia's latest and most sensational public lynching incident. A violent mob descended on the out-of-uniform officers after reports that they had sought to extort money from a local driver who the police claimed lacked license plates for his car. Police corruption of this sort is woefully commonplace in Bolivia and a source of deep public resentment. The three police were brutally beaten to death.

The incidence was atrocious and shocking, and one of as many as more than 40 incidents in Bolivia in less than three months as opposed to an estimated 57 cases in al of 2007 combined. The worrisome rise in such violence has provoked new debate over the failing state of security and justice throughout the country.

Since then another lynching has occurred on March 7, this time in the Santa Cruz department, marking the 41st case of this year in as little as three months, as compared to 57 cases in all of 2007.

Human rights activists in Bolivia warn that the rise is due to the fact that the population does not find a response to their legal demands in the judicial system.

The national director of the Special Force of Fight Against Crime (FELCC), Adolfo Espinoza, confirms that the justice system in-country is losing credibility, hence causing the rise in crime rates and lynching incidences.

Lynching is a collective reaction of rage and of helplessness by groups of people that suffer from scarcity," says Acha. have-nots that feel fury at the corrupt politicians...the injustice...the lack of work.

Reactions and Rage and a Deep Class Divide

Compared to wealthy elites who have access to private security measures, the poor who work several jobs from morning to night, often leaving their house unattended, are more likely to be robbed and experience exasperation for losing the little belongs they have.

have more economic power...they have other ways of protecting themselves private security, high walls, alarms which is not to say they are more respectful of others lives...we dont know what kind of reactions they might have, said Acha, noting the much higher incidence of lynching in more impoverished neighborhoods.

She further adds that lynching is primarily a product of insecurity. In the 90s, the feeling of insecurity caused by economic instability of the country and its associated impacts such as job lose, relocation, and an increase in poverty level have led to an increase in incidences of lynching.

The correlation between economic and social insecurity and the rise in lynching is clear and needs to be heeded in any debate about how to address crime and reaction to it in Bolivian society. The threat of more rampant lynching in Bolivia is not about whether community justice does or does not become part of the national constitution. It is about creating economic opportunity that spreads to the poorest and most marginalized. In Bolivia, social stability from the neighborhood to the nation goes hand in hand with economic stability. And that is something that 20 years of neoliberal economic reforms has failed to produce, and thus far, two years of movement in a different direction as well.

Written by Aldo Orellana and Yi-Ching Hwang.
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