Bolivia presents a wide range of cultural, natural and ethnical diversity. Along these wonderful and positive factors, the country also presents severe levels of political, economic and social instability which makes it one of the poorest and most undeveloped countries in the world. The conflictive contrasts between different social groups have made the Bolivian legal system change throughout time. The most recent and dramatic shift in the Bolivian legal system, was the adoption of a completely new constitution in the year 2009, during the government of Evo Morales Ayma (Nogales 2009).
A clear fact that demonstrates shifts in the legal system is that this newly approved constitution is the seventeenth constitutional document in Bolivia’s republican life. The objective of this essay is to provide a short historical overview of the Bolivian legal system, give a brief description of the newly adopted constitution, the categories of its laws, the role of the main actors in such legal system and its main sources of law.
Moreover a brief sketch of the court structure that is present in the country of relevance will also be discussed. History During the 15th century, many European countries colonized the regions of North America, South America, Africa and Asia. European colonial expansion was the main determinant for the widespread of the Civil Law Tradition, as colonizing countries enforced their own legal tradition in their colonies. The origins of Bolivian law are based on the Napoleonic Code which was adopted by Spain and many other European countries.
Although the Napoleonic Code is French, Robert Holtman states that the Napoleonic code is a document that has influenced the entire world such as it influenced Spain and Bolivia subsequently(… ).
The Napoleonic Code was inspired on Emperor Justinian’s Masterpiece, Corpus Juris Civilis, the codification of Roman Law, although they present many important differences. By these facts, we can confirm that the Bolivian legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code and Roman Law and therefore belongs to the family of Civil Law legal tradition.
The result of this influence was also a written codification of law in books. In order to have a better understanding of the Bolivian legal system it is important to remind that the main liberator of Bolivia, Simon Bolivar, acquired his main knowledge and political beliefs through his education in Europe and was a great fanatic of both the French and American Revolution. Bolivar was the author of Bolivia’s first constitution in 1826 and therefore this such constiution grasped an influence from both the American French Constitution. (Bushnell, David. The Liberator, Simon Bolivar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970. Print) Throughout more than one hundred and eighty five years of Bolivia’s republican life, the country has dealt with many political, economical and social upheavals, from military coups, dictatorships to indigenous social revolutions. An essential factor in the history of the Bolivian Legal system is the election of Evo Morales Ayma as the new president of the country. Morales represents the political party Movimiento al Socialismo MAS, and is the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia.
Why is this election of such essential matter? It is important because in present days the Morales government leads a process of change seeking for state reform combing nationalism and indigenism in order to provide more political power to the indigenous social groups, which are by far a majority in Bolivia. (Mayorga, 2008). For such a change to take place, Morales introduced a Constitutional Assembly with the objective of changing the constitution with a new one.
After several reunions and agreements a new constitution was adopted through referendum (Tapia, 2008). There is a wide gap between the old and new Bolivian Constitution, it is important then to provide a description of the main changes the new constitution has in order to have a complete broader understanding the present legal system. New Constitution After long and extensive reunions and negotiations, the new Bolivian National Constitution was adopted at beginnings of the year 2009 after being approved in referendum.
Bolivia is presented as the “Plurinational State of Bolivia” in which the different bolivian indigenous groups will be granted greater power, something marginalized indigenous groups have been fighting for ages. (Constitucion Politica del Estado Plurinacional Boliviano, 2009). It also considers gas, electricity, health and education as human rights. According to article 228 of the Bolivian National Constitution, the constitution is Bolivia’s supreme law(Constitucion Politica del Estado Plurinacional Boliviano, 2009).
It is divided in five main parts: Fundamental bases of the State, Rights, Duties and Guarantees. Structure and Organization of the State. Territorial Structure and Organization of the State. Constitutional Reform. These different parts are divided in titles, chapters and sections. Allover the constitution presents four hundred and eleven articles. Under article 11 the system of government is stated. It presents Bolivia as a participatory, representative and communitarian democracy. The organization is divided in four independent and separated branches, the Judicial, Executive, Electoral and Legislative. Constitucion Politica del Estado Plurinacional Boliviano, 2009). Another important factor in the new constitution is the creation of an indigenous judicial system. This indigenous system was creates alongside with an innovation Plurinational Constitutional Court. How laws are divided into categories and in which books the laws are codified or otherwise available to the public? The most important sources of bolivian law? Unwritten/written??? The role of lawyers and and legal scholars? A brief sketch of the court structure the country has for adjudicating cases?
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