The Aymara people and Quechua people make up the majority population of Bolivia and now for the first time in Bolivia’s history the original nations have a role in ruling the country. Bolivia has enacted by popular vote a new constitution. With a popular vote of 61% there is no doubt that the peoples of Bolivia have chosen fairness, openness and balancing power in favor of those originally rooted in the soil. President Evo Morales and his administration has to be congratulated and praised for the achievement.
The remarkable fact is that Bolivia is the first country in the world to substantially integrate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into domestic law. Bolivia has responded to the Declaration by recognizing the rights of indigenous Aymara and 35 other indigenous peoples, recognized political power in indigenous communities, indigenous control over land and recognized officially the status of indigenous systems of justice as a part of the law and justice system of the state. These are now the law of Bolivia’s land.
Some countries look on Bolivia as a rogue state. Instead, Bolivia is now the leading state advancing human rights. Bolivia is leading the United States of America, Norway, Canada, Switzerland and virtually all other states that have long laid claimed to being the “free world.” Now Bolivia has set a new human rights standard for states’ governments to achieve.
Many Mistizo and most European descedant Bolivians in the eastern part of the country generally opposed the Constitution…they are currently in control of gas deposits, large landholdings and farms–the “power elite.” The descendants are immigrant populations that have long depressed the indigenous populations. The Indians have long provided the labor, land and resources to bolster the wealth and power of the elite. This can now change.
Other countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Tanzania, Chile, Peru, and India could learn important lessons from Bolivia’s achievement. In these states the majority population is the indigenous population and in each of them the minority wealthy control. In states like the United States of America, Canada, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and others, indigenous peoples are relatively small yet the wealthy minority controls even them. All states must actively establish new laws internally to reflect the international consensus established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Bolivia has advanced the rule of law with its new Constitution. It is time that those who resist the consensus on Indigenous Rights step aside. They will not do so without resisting, but the time has come for the world to recognize Indigenous peoples as a part of humanity with all the social, economic, political and cultural rights that attach to that concept.
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