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Set to rights

19 February 2009

What’s wrong with Latin America?  Don’t they know that the “rule of law” is a metaphor… and really isn’t meant to be applied to everyone?

According to Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post, there’s something just not right about the new Constitutions springing up in Latin America — too many civil rights:

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.

Partlow manages t find people (and seems to agree) that giving people MORE rights somehow is wrong… or a plot by shadowy Spaniards (as opposed say, to the Scottish writers who influenced the United States Constitution) — to undermine United States influence in Latin America.  I donno… maybe giving people the right to working sewers is a Spanish plot to throw the U.S. out of Boliva, but it seems a tad of a stretch.

Must be a Washington thing.  Apparently, rights are all fine and good, but there’s a finite number of them and only those thought of in 1793 are to be enjoyed by some of the people, some of the time.  Certainly not by Latin Americans (who — Parlow suggests, need Spaniards to think them up… unlike, say, the way Thomas Jefferson and Co. didn’t turn to Scots philosphers and English legal scholars).

And, as Partlow reports, there’s likely to be some delay in the State living up to its obligations.  Sort of unlike, say, the 150 years or so it took to get around to actually (usually) enforcing the right to avoid self-incrimination.  Or, the 100 plus years it took to make the 14th Amendment sort of a reality… most of the time.

It must be a Washington mindset.  Even some so-called “liberals” are annoyed that  the United States Constitution makes treaties binding on U.S. courts. According to the Washington Post, the Bolivians shouldn’t give the Indians the right to an education.  I guess it’s a similar argument to that made by even  U.S. “liberals” that it wouldn’t be good “bi-partisanship” to actually follow the law, specified in   “The Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994” .  Latin Americans may have — with great reluctance (and not under any binding legal agreement) have tried leaders and caused political tormoil in their own countries, but … really now.

The Bolivian Constitution gives Indians the right to an education.  And — the Washington mindset seems to say — Bolivians shouldn’t upset the pro-ignorance lobby, and Gringos shouldn’t upset the pro-torture one.  Wouldn’t be prudent.

(Sombrero tip to El Duderino in La Paz for starting me off on this riff)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Utpal permalink
    20 February 2009 9:36 pm

    The Paltrow thingie is silly. Most constitutions that were redacted after decolonization (especially after the UN Declaration of Human Rights, for example) are detailed. The Indian constitution, for example has 300+ articles and a bunch of amendments, as are the ones for South Africa, etc. … No shadowy Spanish professors involved …:)

  2. Utpal permalink
    20 February 2009 9:52 pm

    Here’s a link with an audioclip that has asn interview with the “shadowy” Spanish professor in question: he mentions the difference between the “detailed” and the “sparse” constitutions:

    (the point is that the “detailed” constitutions are very common in the world)

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