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Ecuador: New Constitution Ready For Vote in Referendum

Categories: Latin America, Ecuador, Elections, Governance, Politics

Fernando Cordero, Assembly President while hands out the text of new Constitution to Jorge Acosta, TSE President. -Photo used under Creative Commons from Presidencia de la República. [1]

Ever since 1830 when Ecuador became an independent republic, this South American country has created 20 constitutions. It is understandable that Ecuadorans, after almost two centuries and numerous attempts, they may be used to these changes. The current Constitution was written by Congress in 1998, but following President Rafael Correa's election, he called together a Constituent Assembly. Many people thought that a new Constitution would be a remedy to the country's problems, but unfortunately for many, the Assembly seems to be the classic copy of traditional Congress [2] with similar political maneuvering [3].

The Constituent Assembly concluded last week and presented the draft proposal for the next Ecuadoran Constitution (download pdf [4]), it contains 444 articles and 26 Transitory Dispositions, which fills about two hundred pages. The deadline for the presentation of the new draft proposal was July 26 and in a special event, President Correa, the Assembly President, and other high ranking officials presented the text of new Constitution to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which will call for referendum on September 28th of this year. People will have to answer, either with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote and will determine whether the Constitution will be approved.

In middle of this decision there is the debate among Ecuadoran citizens at home and abroad. With such a short time to campaign for the yes or no vote, some bloggers are caught in the middle and find it difficult to decide their vote. Nuestros Reflejos [es] say it is difficult for anyone to say that they are either 100% against or in favor of all of the articles approved by the Assembly. [5]

Juan Fernado Pacheco of Saturn Attacks [es] [6], would consider reading the 200 pages of Constitution if he thought the Assembly didn't act under pressure. He writes about five reasons why he will vote “No” in the referendum. Two of his points are:

El trabajo apresurado de aprobar en una semana todo el grueso de los artículos de la constitución cuando tuvieron una serie de meses para hacerlo, y lo que es peor bajo serias denuncias de que esos artículos llegaban por email una o dos horas antes de ser aprobados. Propuestas descabelladas como la de revisar la vigencia de los símbolos patrios o la de incluir el derecho al placer sexual de la mujeres simplemente me hacen pasar vergüenza ajena y no hablemos de otras vergonzosas acciones como el cocerse los labios por parte de un asambleísta o las señoras que un día fueron vestidas de negro mostrando el luto y ni mencionar la elección del nuevo presidente de la asamblea bajo una serie de atropellos al resto de Asambleístas

The work was rushed to approve the bulk of the articles of the Constitution in just a week, when they had a number of months to do so, and what is worse it was under serious allegations that those articles arrived by email an hour or two before being approved. Crazy proposals such as reviewing the validity of the national symbols or including the right to sexual pleasure for women, which just makes me move beyond shame and not to mention other shameful actions such an Assemblyman sewing his lips shut or when ladies wore black to show that they were in mourning, as well as the election of new Assembly president under a series of abuses to the rest of Assemblymen and women.

Eduardo Varas [7] of Mas Alla de Libros [es] agrees somewhat with Pacheco on the lack of discussion of articles that were approved by assembly members He also shows how difficult it is to believe in friends, when talking about politics. He writes about not believing one of his friends, a member of the Assembly. Here his reasoning:

Mi amiga Fernanda está trabajando en la Asamblea. Estaba feliz el viernes porque estaban finalizando todo. Que no había dormido por eso. Que era un gran trabajo. ¿Han cambiado las leyes de las mesas al pleno? No, eso es mentira de los medios, me dijo. ¿Ha estado el asesor legal de la Presidencia cambiando la normativa? No, que el Ejecutivo ha querido entrometerse, pero no lo han dejado. ¿Le creo? No, lastimosamente no. Eso que ella llama campaña mediática en contra es para mí un temor reflejado en los medios. ¿Deben decir la verdad los periodistas? Primero que me definan la verdad. Si es un objeto inmutable e incontrastable en su totalidad, pues llegamos a un acuerdo.

My friend Fernanda is working in the Assembly. I was happy on Friday because they had finished everything. She had not slept because of that. That was a great job. Have they changed the laws of the plenary tables ? No, this is a lie from media, she told me. Has the legal adviser of the presidency been changing the rules? No, the Executive wanted to do so, but they never allow him. Do I believe her? No, unfortunately not. What she calls an anti-media campaign, for me it is fear reflected in the media. Should journalists tell the truth? First of all, they should define ‘truth’. If it's an immutable and incontrastable object in its entirety, then we can reach an agreement.

Some people are concerned because they have heard that some of the articles were written before the process started, and that the president's legal counsel, Alexis Mera handed the articles out at the last minute. [8] And precisely, that's why Ecuadorans such as Pepe Zurita [9] thinks that the real power of the Constitution is in the Transitory Dispositions and where the Assembly can place temporary or permanent conditions. And he's afraid of a transitory that could say things like this:

Bueno esta Asamblea puede en una transitoria decir qué pasa si gana el NO. Puede decir que en caso de ganar el NO, se convoca a elecciones de diputados según lo establece la Ley vigente (entiéndase la Constitución del 98 y la Ley de Elecciones). Así todos somos felices.

Well, this Assembly can say in a transitory disposition what happens if the NO vote wins. It can say that in case the NO wins, then it can call for general election of Congressmen as established by the current law (or the 1998 Constitution and the Law on Elections). So everyone is happy.

Others mock the dispositions included in the draft Constitution. Fatima Efigenia, for example, sarcastically says that if the Constitution invokes God and Simon Bolivar, [10] why we cannot ask Argentine footballer Diego Maradona to protect Ecuadorans if she was a member of Maradona's church. However, Ivan Campana [es] [11] is calling for common sense and advising people to read, to comprehend what is included in thsi Constitution, whether they want to vote “yes” or they choose “no”, the first thing they have to do is read:

Sé que la mayoría probablemente nunca se leyeron ni siquiera la constitución actual (que obligatoriamente todos deberíamos leearla), pero por lo menos no pierdan la oportunidad ahora de enterarse y formar parte de la vida de su país, sino después van a estar quejándose por los resultados, si gana el sí se quejan, si gana el no también se quejan… Sean activos, no reactivos, no esperen a que sea tarde para decir las cosas, sino al final los cagaos son Uds. mismos, tenemos la oportunidad de hacer algo para definir nuestro futuro.

I know that the majority have probably never even read the actual Constitution (which we must all read), but at least now we shouldn't lose the opportunity to learn and be part of the life of their country, if not you are going to be complaining of the results, if ‘yes’ wins, then they will complain, if ‘no’ wins they will also complain … Be active, not reactive, don't wait until it is too late to say a word, because in the end, you will be the ones in trouble, we have the opportunity to do something to define our future.