September 29, 2008 [LINK / comment]

New constitution for Ecuador

Based on early returns, it appears that almost two-thirds of the people of Ecuador voted to approve a revised constitution that would greatly enhance the powers of the president. For one thing, he would have the power to dissolve Congress once per term, though that would force new presidential elections to be held. Incumbent presidents would be eligible for reelection after their initial four-year term is up; President Rafael Correa has already served two years, and thus may hold on to power for eight additional years -- or more, pending further constitutional revision. The left-wing Correa hailed the results of the referendum, saying, "This confirms the citizens' revolution." As reported by the Washington Post,

Correa's supporters emphasize that the 444-article document -- Ecuador's 20th constitution -- prohibits discrimination, respects private property, will increase spending on health care and the poor, and enshrines more rights for indigenous groups. In a country rich with ecological treasures, including the Galapagos Islands and part of the Amazon rain forest, the constitution also calls on government to avoid measures that would destroy ecosystems or drive species to extinction -- the first such measure of its kind, according to Ecuadoran officials. The constitution would allow civil unions for gay couples.

Obviously, that is not a "constitution" in any traditional sense, it is a laundry list of vague aspirations and specific commitments that probably cannot be fulfilled. It takes to the extreme the Latin American habit of enshrining a multitude of particular concerns in the Basic Charter, making it so complex that hardly anyone has the slightest idea of what the Constitution really says. Today the jubilant Correa called on his country's citizens to help "build a more just society." See Ecuador thus continues to march in the authoritarian footsteps of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, abandoning the traditional constitutional restraints that made possible peaceful political change. The people of Ecuador will soon learn what a "revolution" really is, just as the people of Bolivia are learning...

A nuclear Venezuela?

Just back from a trip to Russia, where he met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, President Hugo Chavez announced that he is seeking help from Moscow in developing a nuclear power program. Of course, he made the obligatory stipulation that it would be for "civilian" purposes. See In an energy-rich country like Venezuela, however, the political and strategic purposes of such a program are obvious to everyone. Moscow has no reason to help Venezuela gain the capacity to build its own nuclear weapons, but given its ongoing strategic offensive aimed at toppling U.S. global supremacy, it has every reason to make the U.S. government think that it is doing so.