Saturday, December 08, 2007

Controlling the Elected

This morning's El Comercio carries as its lead editorial, a piece titled, "Control of Elected", which echoes my comments about the actions of the Constituent Assembly to date. Let me see if I can do the editorial some justice in English:

Control of the Elected
We hope that the Asemblistas understand
legislating like dictators provokes conflict
and splits which in turn incite disobedience
and spreading insecurity.

"The first sessions of the Constituent Assembly pose the old, unresolved dilemma in democratic systems: The effective control of elected officials. The question pertains when great unease exists with respect to how one can effectively control or establish limits over an entity that, in its rush to an exclusive - and excluding - interpretation of complete power, ignores legal norms that constrain it. And that concern begins with the CA's own enabling statute which should have regulated the CA's organization and installation.

We're living in an environment established by the President of the Republic, in which 80 people propose to legislate, in a few weeks, (administration of) taxes, the banking system, and property. The new Constitution itself is discarded as a priority since, according to the CA's first resolutions, "revolutionary" laws will be applied immediately and without reference to Constitutions, past or future.

In other words, the principal objective of the process which was to be the drafting of a new Constitution for the Republic, is secondary and of minor importance.

In a democracy, representatives, legislators, councilmen, Contitutional assemblymen, etc., are elected with a given mandate covered by applicable laws, save situations such as the birth of a state emerging from a dictatorship, which does not apply in our case.

For these reasons, what's happening in Ecuador right now is serious and outrageous since the 80 Constitutional assemblymen have in fact usurped Legislative Powers and suborned the Judiciary and control of the State. For this reason, EL COMERCIO concurs with and supports the editorial protest of El Universo newspaper, and we warn that the CA is going down a road toward political and social confrontation that bring with it unpredictible consequences. We hope that the 80 assemblymen understand, notwithstanding whatever political or ideological imperative, that direct legislation, as happens in dictatorships, provokes grave confrontations, incites civil disobedience and creates an environment of insecurity much worse that any which has heretofore existed."


I haven't seen the El Universo editorial, but I'm guessing from this editorial that it's pretty much in the same vein, that is, message to the 80 Acerdo Pais folks: Hey, listen up, you guys, you were not, repeat, not, elected to do anything other than draft a new Constitution which would submitted to the electorate for their approval, y nada mas, no despedidos de enemigos politicos del Presi, ni disolucion de instituciones democraticos (e.g.,el Congreso). Punto, final, me explico?

I rather doubt that the AP guys and their allies of the moment (see below for comment on the latest alliance of convenience) will heed the above editorial, but as El Comercio says, they've been warned about the possible consequences of their actions, and I'm glad that the warning has been an early one. I hope the editorial also serves as a wake up notice to readers as to the gravity of the situtation and the need for action. But then, as I'm wont to say, we'll see.....

OK, a couple of news items warranting comment:

Notwithstanding the above warnings, the AP 80 have drafted language which changes the key section 23 of the statute that enables the CA. Specifically, the AP wants to change the language in section 23 pertaining to the referendum that would approve (or not) the work of the CA. The change reads as follows:

Old language: The new Constitution text will be approved "by at least, 50% plus one, of valid votes cast." (This voter base would include all votes cast, yes, no, blanco (ballots not marked), and nulo (ballots defaced.)

New proposed language: The new Constitution text will be approved "by at least, 50% plus one, of the sufragantes." (Sufragantes are understood to be those voting either yes or no on the Constitution; this ballot count base would not include votos in blanco or in nulo.)

In essence, the AP wants to reduce the voter base to exclude blancos and nulos (these have always been counted in all elections which I've observed here over the last six years, and they've been included in the overall vote basis when it comes the calculating the 50% cutoff) so as to make it easier to achieve the 50% plus one goal within a smaller vote base. Nifty, huh?

This time, the AP isn't just usurping legislative powers (again) it's seeking to change the rules of the game so that it's easier for them to win approval of their work, in direct contravention (modification I should say) of the statute that set these guys up in the first place. This is not only wrong, it's pure chutzpah and an insult to the electorate that placed their trust in the AP. (For reasons not clear to me, an Izquierda Democratica guy, Diego Borja, has said that this is cool with him and he's supporting this wrong headed initiative. There's probably some quid pro quo for this duplicity/act of political convenience, but I don't know what it is at this point.)

Anyway, the AP continues to push its unethical and un-Constitutional agenda (I say un-Constitutional because I maintain that the 1999 Constitution still exists and pertains), and we'll have to wait and see if any meaningful resistance to all of this appears.

On another front and posting, I'd expressed approval of the military takeover of the PetroEcuador, and I still do. Unfortunately, the military effectives tasked with keeping the peace in the Dayuma area of Orellana have been charged with arresting and torturing 22 Dayuma residents, which has brought the wrath of the Catholic Church's human rights group and other hr goups down on the heads of the military, and rightfully so. While I still hope the military can clean up PE itself (and peacefully so, I'd hope), these guys clearly need to control themselves in detaining local rioters.

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