November 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Tumult at Bolivian assembly

After several months of delay and confusion, the constituent assembly which was convened at the urging of President Evo Morales has resumed meeting, in the central city of Sucre. In hopes of avoiding disruptive protesters and finishing their work on a new national charter by the end of the year, they are using a secure military base to hold their meetings. Opposition leaders are boycotting the proceedings, however. Some of the President's opponents are pushing to move the national capital from La Paz, the western highland city in which Indian people and customs predominate, to Sucre, which was the capital until the end of the 19th Century. Ever since then, Sucre has been the seat of the country's Supreme Court, and La Paz has been the seat of the legislative and executive branches. See BBC. Divisions within the country are so deep right now that the prospects for drafting and ratifying a new constitution as President Morales wants seem virtually nil. If he is anything like his mentor, Hugo Chavez, such political stalemate might provide an excuse for declaring a state of emergency and then issuing authoritarian decrees. Democracy was not very strong in Bolivia to begin with, and it may not last until the end of Morales' term in 2010.

Ecuador assembly is chosen

Meanwhile in Ecuador, a similar scenario is playing out. The composition of Ecuador's new constituent assembly has finally been determined by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, nearly two months after the election was held. Of the 130 seats in the assembly, the president's party "Acuerdo Pais" (Country Accord) won a large majority with 80 seats, followed by the "Patriotic Society Party" (PSP) with 18, "Prian" (led by former president Alvaro Noboa) with 9; the "Social Christan Party" (PSC, which is conserative) with 5, and the Indian rights party "Pachakutik" with 4. A few other parties won three or fewer seats. See El Comercio (in Spanish).

One of the populist initiatives of President Rafael Correa is providing free cell phone service to poor people; see washingtonpost.com. It is hard to maintain old-fashioned telephone booths in many parts of Latin America, in large part because of vandalism.