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February 07, 2013

The Law on Autonomy: Unconstitutional Law?

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Some legal incompatibilities (some might call them carelessness) are coming back to hunt the new Bolivian political system, the government and the legislative branch. It has to do with four articles in the Law of Autonomies and Decentralization that were, in the last two days, declared unconstitutional by the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (i.e. Constitutional Court). Articles 144, 145, 146 and 147 allow for the removal of Mayors and Governors in case these public officials have been accused by the Public Attorney of some crime. Based on accusations and resting on the legality of the Autonomy Law, elected Governors Ernesto Suarez from Beni and Mario Cossio of Tarija, were removed from office. In addition, since the passing of the law in 2011, eleven Mayors and the two mentioned Governors were removed. Curiously enough, the vast majority are from the opposition.

The sentence of the Constitutional Tribunal opens the doors for uncertainty in the administration of such territorial units and their political power balance. While the complain by the opposition had been the use of this legal instrument by government forces to favor the government's party, MAS, the possibility of those removed to be able to come back to office has deep consequences for the government, its party and its agenda.