There’s a truly bizarre op-ed in the Miami Herald today on Bolivia and her new constitution. I feel like it was written by an adolescent, with its focus on how names have been changed of certain political institutions, and how the author oddly can’t spell Quechua or Guaraní correctly. It’s spelled “Quetchua” and “Guaraní” (and yes the accent is important) and I have to wonder where the editors are on this because this is really basic stuff.
And then the author delves into indigenous communal justice, and begins just making up things:
One of the more unpredictable aspects of the constitution is that it recognizes the right of indigenous communities to practice traditional “communal” justice. That can include stoning, burning and even lynching, and critics call it “vigilante” justice. Local campesino leaders say it’s their way of controlling crime.
This is entirely false, and I have no idea where someone told him this, or whether he just had a daydream. Indigenous communities do have a right to their own justice systems. However, they are subject to several important restrictions under the constitution, including:
Artículo 190. II. La jurisdicción indígena originaria campesina respeta el derecho a la vida, el derecho a la defensa, y demás derechos y garantías establecidos en la presente Constitución.
Article 190. II. The jurisdiction of original indigenous communities respects the right to life, the right to a defense, and all the other rights and guarantees established in the present Constitution. (translation mine)
Take my word for it that stoning and lynching are not permitted under the new constitution. Furthermore, in my time talking with indigenous leaders, the point of using their own justice systems to resolve disputes was not simply “a way of controlling crime,” but a way to structure their communities according to their tradition and cultural beliefs. Lastly, the jurisdiction of indigenous justice systems is still unclear and will be until la Ley Deslinde Jurisdiccional is promulgated after the December elections. It’s entirely unclear whether indigenous justice systems will have criminal jurisdiction over non-members of their communities.
The amazing thing is the entire op-ed is filled with weird falsehoods like this. I only have the time to dissect one little paragraph, but also want to highlight the underlying tone of the piece. The author quotes the mayor of Tarija, opposition politician and apparent racist, who says “There will come a time when no one will be able to control them.” Them being those pesky indigenous people who make up huge portion of Bolivia’s population and the unspoken assumption being, we can’t have indigenous people making decisions and controlling things. It’s a curious phenomena that newspapers pay people to demonstrate their own ignorance.
El Duderino also rips into the op-ed.