Constitutional Change in Latin America vs. American Imperialist Propaganda

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Latin America’s Document-Driven Revolutions” is an interesting article at the Washington Post – interesting because of the subject and because of how ripe it is with pro-American imperialism propaganda with no sense of irony.

From the introductory paragraph:

Once a product of armed rebellion, the revolution in Latin America today is taking place on paper in the form of new constitutions, a mostly peaceful process influenced by the work of European legal scholars who have played a behind-the-scenes role in drafting the populist documents.

The U.S. has long meddled in Latin America and has backed those violent means of change. While Europeans have opted to contribute to a more peaceful path. Of course, Europe has a violent history in Latin America too… it goes back a bit father than the Monroe Doctrine.

What was done?

In all three cases, from the Venezuelan charter in 1999 to the new constitutions in Ecuador last year and Bolivia last month, a team of Spanish legal scholars influenced the conception, drafting or implementation of the documents, which have stirred domestic class tensions and harmed relations with the U.S. government. The leader is Roberto Viciano Pastor, an author and constitutional law professor at the University of Valencia whose technical, and some say ideological, assistance in writing the constitutions is generating new scrutiny across South America.

Oh noes! “Ideology” from some place outside the U.S. and the Chicago School!

Each governs with a strident populist tone, animated by an anti-U.S. spirit, that places him to the political left of liberal Latin American governments such as those in Brazil or Chile.

While the three leaders’ speech often borrows from a Cold War-era anti-imperialist message, each of them has relied on democratic polls to be elected and to approve new constitutions, unlike earlier rebellions by the armed left in Cuba and Nicaragua.

Unlike the earlier rebellions coups and revolutions by the armed right in Cuba and Nicaragua supported by the U.S. And notice how changing the constitution is akin to rebellion?

For their part, the assertion claimed by the Post and others that the Spanish scholars wrote these constitutions is denied by many others, including the constitutions’ authors and Viciano and his team.

Kintto Lucas, an author and adviser to the Ecuadoran assembly on issues of sovereignty and foreign relations, said his committee asked the advisers to stay out of their work. “I always disagreed with their presence, because I believed that they truly didn’t know the country,” Lucas said. “Their fundamental role was to help the government put its ideas into the constitution.”

Rubén Martínez Dalmau, who worked as an adviser with Viciano in all three constitutional processes, said in a phone interview from Spain that his group had played only a technical role, helping assembly members “understand what would be the result if you put a comma in one place or another, or an article in one place or another.”

Use of commas – the horror. So while the U.S. has a history of sending military technical advisers, a few Spanish constitutional scholars are hired by 3 Latin American countries and these constitutional technical advisers from Spain freak out the political right and their paper, the Washington Post. Why?

The popularity of these new populist movements could complicate the Obama administration’s anti-narcotics efforts in the cocaine-producing Andes. Venezuela and Bolivia have sharply curtailed cooperation with U.S. drug agents, while a military base in Ecuador used for U.S. surveillance flights is scheduled to close this year. Each of these leaders has also questioned the benefits of free trade, a long-standing U.S. policy goal in the region.

Yup, free trade and the drug war. America’s agenda is destroying Latin America, but these new constitutions are a threat! What are the horrible things in the new constitutions?

The final products are sprawling documents. While the U.S. Constitution has seven articles and 27 amendments, Venezuela’s constitution has 350 articles, Bolivia’s has 411, and Ecuador taps out at 444. Each document spells out a lengthy list of rights. The Bolivian constitution, for example, guarantees rights to food, water, free education and health care, sewer service, electricity, gas, mail and telephones, cultural self-identification, privacy, honor, dignity and a life free from torture and physical, psychological or sexual violence. There are special rights for children, old people, families and the disabled and 18 different rights for indigenous groups.

Ecuador also decided “to outline inherent rights for nature” in their constitution.

The new constitutions also give weight to the collective rights of groups, such as indigenous peoples and human rights and environmental organizations, enlarging their opportunities to act alongside, or as a check on, governments.

Human rights. That’s what so objectionable to the right and the Post. And while writing a constitution doesn’t make problem go away and even having a constitution, as the U.S. has demonstrated during the Bush years, doesn’t mean rights are protected, these documents can serve as a blueprint for what is important to a society.

“You can’t solve problems by creating a constitution. You can say everybody’s entitled to public health, but that doesn’t solve the problem of public health,” said Aparicio, who helped oversee the assembly elections in Ecuador and is vice president of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, based in Rio de Janeiro.

Will a constitutional revolution be a better path for these Latin American countries than the violent path pursued in the past? I hope so.

“What we have achieved in these last years was, in truth, the result of the deaths of many people, many young people, who decided to take up arms to bring down the authoritarian regimes in Chile, in Argentina, in Uruguay, in Brazil, in almost all the countries,” Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said at a social forum last month. “They died, and we are doing what they dreamed of doing — and we have won this by democratic means.”

Democracy over violence. Shouldn’t this be something the United States supports? I think so.


Cross-posted from European Tribune.


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  1. but its all the justice I can give it for right now. Over at European Tribune, this would be called a LQD – Lazy Quote Diary.

    I cannot edit the tags to this diary, so there are none.

  2. I have been so encouraged by the developments in these countries. It boggles my mind how anyone with a shred of commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights doesn’t share that feeling.  

    • Edger on February 19, 2009 at 05:15

    and those in Venezuela and Ecuador, with the long lists of entrenched collective rights, are good examples of outlawing many of the tactics used by US imperialism. It’ no surprise that WAPO would be freaking over them and tryig their best to catapult more propaganda before too many people start to see that.

    But WAPO is a little late to the game.

    “The War on Democracy”, a documentary film produced by John Pilger in 2007 was his first major film for the cinema – in a career that has produced more than 55 television documentaries.

    Set in the Latin American states known as “America’s backyard” and about the relationships between these states and the USA, “The War on Democracy”, two years in the making, explores the historic and current relationship of Washington with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile.

    In an interview with Pablo Navarrete at, Pilger said of the film:

    JP: I happened to watch George Bush’s second inauguration address in which he pledged to “bring democracy to the world.” He mentioned the words “democracy” and “liberty” twenty one times. It was a very important speech because, unlike the purple prose of previous presidents (Ronald Reagan excluded), he left no doubt that he was stripping noble concepts like “democracy” and “liberty” of their true meaning – government, for, by and of the people.

    I wanted to make a film that illuminated this disguised truth — that the United States has long waged a war on democracy behind a facade of propaganda designed to contort the intellect and morality of Americans and the rest of us. For many of your readers, this is known. However, for others in the West, the propaganda that has masked Washington’s ambitions has been entrenched, with its roots in the incessant celebration of World War Two, the “good war”, then “victory” in the cold war. For these people, the “goodness” of US power represents “us”. Thanks to Bush and his cabal, and to Blair, the scales have fallen from millions of eyes. I would like “The War on Democracy” to contribute something to this awakening.

    In the United States, the testimony of those who ran the “backyard” echo those who run that other backyard, Iraq; sometimes they are the same people.

    The War On Democracy, by John Pilger

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