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Context of 'October 15, 2005: Iraqis Approve New Constitution'

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The US authorities in Haiti submit the US-drafted constitution (see Early 1917) to a popular referendum, which approves it in a landslide. Less than 5 percent of Haiti’s population participate in the vote. [Rogozinski, 1992, pp. 240; Common Dreams, 3/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Brazilian President Joao Goulart holds a national plebiscite on whether Brazil should have a presidential or parliamentary government (a recent constitutional amendment required the president to share power with a council of ministers responsible to the legislature). Voters decide overwhelmingly to restore to Goulart full presidential powers under the 1946 constitution, despite the CIA spending close to $20 million in an effort to thwart his election. [Counterspy, 4/1979; Keen, 1992, pp. 357]

Entity Tags: João Goulart

Timeline Tags: US-Brazil (1961-2003)

In a national referendum, 72 percent of Venezuelan voters approve a new constitution that significantly increases the state’s role in the economy and society. The constitution—Venezuela’s 26th since winning independence from Spain in 1821—codifies into law Chavez’s progressive agenda. It requires the state to promote sustainable agriculture, protect the environment, guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, take affirmative action against the effects of institutionalized discrimination, and guarantee every Venezuelan the right to a fair wage, health care, and a secure food supply. The victory seems to have been a result of Chavez’s immense popularity and not necessarily the constitution itself, which, according to one poll cited by the Washington Post, was read by only about two percent of the population. [Washington Post, 12/16/1999; Washington Post, 12/17/1999]
Selection of Constitutional Provisions -
bullet The constitution changes the country’s name from “Republic of Venezuela” to “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title IX, 1999] in honor of Simon Bolivar, the South American liberator who fought for the independence of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] The constitution bases “its moral property and values of freedom, equality, justice and international peace on the doctrine of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator,” Article 1 says. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title I, 1999] The new name reflects Chavez’s desire for a more integrated Latin American, which he hopes will be achieved through a federation of “Bolivarian Republics.” [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The new constitution implies a distinction between the concepts of “law” and “justice.” [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] Article 2 of the constitution says that “Venezuela constitutes itself as a Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice… .” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title I, 1999] Gregory Wilpert, a supporter of the Chavez government, notes: “This stands in contrast to many other country’s constitutions [such as Germany’s], which simply say that its state is a state of law. In other words, the Venezuelan constitution highlights the possible differences between law and justice, implying that justice is just as important as the law, which might not always bring about justice.” The term “justice” is not defined anywhere in the document; however, Wilpert suggests that the constitution’s “declaration of motives,” (the section that precedes the official text of the document) provides an indication of what the constitutional assembly understands justice to be. It states: “The state promotes the well-being of Venezuelans, creating the necessary conditions for their social and spiritual development, and striving for equality of opportunity so that all citizens may freely develop their personality, direct their destiny, enjoy human rights and search for their happiness.” Others warn that the constitution’s failure to explicitly define the meaning of the term creates the possibility that the government could use its own understanding of justice to subvert the law. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Article 13, in designating the country as an “area of peace,” prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases or facilities in Venezuela “by any power or coalition of powers.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title II, 1999]
bullet The constitution requires the state to respect and guarantee any and all rights declared in international human rights treaties that are signed and ratified by Venezuela. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title II, 1999]
bullet The constitution adopts a broad definition of discrimination and makes it the responsibility of the state to correct any inequalities resulting from discrimination. Article 21 thus states: “[A]ll persons are equal before the law and consequently: No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or impairing upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual. The law shall guarantee legal and administrative conditions such as to make equality before the law real and effective manner; [and] shall adopt affirmative measures for the benefit of any group that is discriminated against, marginalized or vulnerable… .” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 58 guarantees the right to information that is “timely, true, and impartial” and adds that such information must be disseminated “without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this constitution.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] Critics argue that what constitutes truth and impartiality is subjective and therefore this article could provide the government with a pretext for censoring the media. [Washington Post, 12/16/1999, pp. A30; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The constitution eliminates state financing of political parties. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Articles 71 through 74 gives the national assembly, the president, and registered voters (when a petition is signed by 10 to 20 percent of the registered voters) the power to initiate a public referendum. A referendum can be one of four types: consultative, recall, approving, and rescinding. A consultative referendum asks the population to give its opinion on a non-binding question that is of a “national transcendent” nature. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] For example, a referendum might ask whether the country should sign a free trade agreement. [Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] A recall referendum is a binding referendum that can be used to recall any elected official after the official has served half of his or her term in office. In an approving referendum, also binding, the public would be called upon to approve a constitutional amendment or an important law or treaty that would infringe on national sovereignty. The rescinding referendum would allow citizens to rescind existing laws. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The constitution guarantees the freedoms of expression, assembly, political participation, as well as the right to employment, housing, family planning, and health care. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] For example, with regard to health care, Article 83 states: “Health is a fundamental social right and the responsibility of the State, which shall guarantee it as part of the right to life. The State shall promote and develop policies oriented toward improving the quality of life, common welfare and access to services.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999] Concerning employment, Article 91 states, “Every worker has the right to a sufficient salary that allows a life with dignity and covers his own and his family’s basic material, social, and intellectual necessities.” The constitution also requires that the state promote and protect economic democracy. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 84 charges the state with administering a national public health system that is “governed by the principles of gratuity, universality, completeness, fairness, social integration and solidarity.” The article also outlaws the privatization of health care. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 87 states that all Venezuelans are entitled to the benefits of the social security system, including those who are unable to contribute. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 88 recognizes the contribution of women homemakers and accordingly guarantees them the right to receive social security benefits. “The State guarantees the equality and equitable treatment of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. The state recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth. Homemakers are entitled to Social Security in accordance with law.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 91 states that the minimum wage is to be computed on an annual basis and that its value will be based, in part, on the cost of the basic consumer goods basket. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 103 guarantees every Venezuelan free education up to the undergraduate university level. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Article 115 states: “The right of property is guaranteed. Every person has the right to the use, enjoyment, usufruct and disposal of his or her goods. Property shall be subject to such contributions, restrictions and obligations as may be established by law in the service of the public or general interest. Only for reasons of public benefit or social interest by final judgment, with timely payment of fair compensation, the expropriation of any kind of property may be declared.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Articles 119-126 of the constitution recognizes, for the first time in the country’s history, the indigenous population’s right to exist, to its languages, cultures, and to hold its lands in collective ownership. It also requires the state to help indigenous groups demarcate their lands and guarantees that state-led exploitation of natural resources in their lands “shall be carried out without harming the cultural, social, and economic integrity of such habitats, and likewise subject to prior information and consultation with the native communities concerned.” Under the new constitution, the state is also required to promote indigenous cultures and languages and protect their intellectual property. It prohibits outsiders from registering patents derived from indigenous knowledge. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003] Article 186 guarantees the political rights of Venezuela’s indigenous population—estimated at 316,000—mandating that they be allocated three of the 130 seats in the National Assembly. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet Articles 127-129 charges the state with protecting biological diversity, genetic resources, ecological processes, and national parks. It requires that environmental and socio-cultural impact reports be prepared in advance of any activities that could potentially cause environmental damage. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title III, 1999]
bullet The constitution specifies that the national government will consist of five powers: the legislative, executive, judicial, electoral, and public. The public, or citizen, power would provide oversight to the four other powers to ensure that they adhere to their constitutionally determined functions. Public power is thus charged with “preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals; to see to sound management and legality in the use of public property, and fulfillment and application of the principle of legality in all of the State’s administrative activities, as well as to promote education as a process that helps create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility and work.” The responsibility of the electoral power is to oversee state elections, and in certain cases, the elections of civil society organizations, such as unions. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet The new constitution replaces the former bi-cameral system with a unicameral one. The stated reason for this change is that it will enable the quick passage of legislation. Critics argue that this centralizes state power. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet At the insistence of President Chavez, the constitutional assembly extended the presidential term from five to six years and eliminated the provision that previously barred presidents from serving two consecutive terms. Chavez argued that a single five-year term would not be sufficient to fully implement the revolution’s policies. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Title VI of the constitution charges the state with promoting industry, agriculture, and various other smaller branches, such as fishing, cooperatives, tourism, small businesses, and crafts. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 301 grants the state the right to use “trade policy to protect the economic activities of public and private Venezuelan enterprises” and charges the state with ensuring that foreign-owned enterprises are not afforded preferential terms that could put Venezuelan enterprises at a disadvantage. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 302 enshrines continued state control of the petroleum industry and states that all industries of a strategic nature are subject to state control. Article 303 gives the state complete ownership of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 304, acknowledging that water “is essential to life and development,” specifies that it belongs in the public domain. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Articles 305 and 306 require that the state pursue a food production strategy aimed at self-sufficiency. The approach would entail promoting “sustainable agriculture as the strategic basis for overall rural development”; promulgating any necessary “financial, commercial, technological transfer, land tenancy, infrastructure, manpower training and other measures”; and compensating agricultural producers “for the disadvantages inherent to agricultural activity.” Article 307 states emphatically that the “predominance of large land estates is contrary to the interests of society” and that “farmers and other agricultural producers are entitled to own land.” It thus authorizes the state to implement taxes on landholdings that are left in fallow, to establish the necessary measures to convert fallow lands into productive economic units, and to protect and promote associative and private forms of property. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 311 requires that “any revenues generated by exploiting underground wealth and minerals, in general, shall be used to finance real productive investment, education and health.” [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999]
bullet Article 236 gives the president the exclusive authority to promote high-ranking military officers. This authority previously laid with the legislature. Critics of the constitution argue that these provisions effectively consolidate Chavez’s control over the military by providing him with a means to pack its leadership with political supporters. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title V, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]
bullet Article 330 gives members of the military the right to vote, a right they were denied under the previous constitution. [Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Title VI, 1999; Venezuela Analysis, 8/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Hugo Chavez Frias

Timeline Tags: US-Venezuela (1948-2005)

The US-appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council signs the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), providing a timetable for the establishment of a representative government in Iraq. The TAL will serve as the country’s constitution during the transitional period, set to begin on June 30, 2004. On that date, the CPA will be dissolved and power will be transferred to a transitional government (This will actually happen on June 28; see June 28, 2004), which will rule Iraq until an elected government has been established. According to the TAL, the National Assembly will be elected in January 31, 2005 and charged with the task of writing a constitution that will be subjected to popular referendum no later than October 15, 2005. Finally, an elected government must be established no later than December 31, 2005. The TAL also includes provisions that place certain restrictions on the transitional government, such as one stating that all “laws, regulations, orders, and directives issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority” will remain in force during this period. [Iraq Transitional Administrative Law, 3/8/2004; CNN, 6/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Iraqi Governing Council

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraq’s presidential council endorses the final draft of Iraq’s permanent constitution and sends it to the National Assembly. The constitution will be subjected to a referendum vote on October 15 (see October 15, 2005). While the proposed constitution is supported by the Kurdish and Shiite members of the council, the document is bitterly opposed by representatives of the Sunni Arabs, the ethnic Turkomen of northern Iraq, Christians, secular groups, and women. [New York Times, 8/29/2005]
bullet The second article of the constitution declares that Islam is the official state religion, and that it will be regarded as “a main source of legislation.” It also states that “no law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” Clerics, therefore, would likely sit on the Supreme Court and would have a role in presiding over family disputes like marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The provision is considered an affront to women’s rights since most interpretations of Islamic law afford women substantially fewer rights than men. [New York Times, 8/29/2005; Associated Press, 10/12/2005]
bullet Article 25 states that the Iraqi government “shall guarantee the reforming of the Iraqi economy according to modern economic bases, in a way that ensures complete investment of its resources, diversifying its sources and encouraging and developing the private sector.” [Associated Press, 10/12/2005] It marks a significant departure in economic policy from the Baathist government, whose constitution stated that “national resources and basic means of production are owned by the people.” [Constitution of Iraq, 1968]
bullet Article 110, which deals with oil policy, states: “The federal government and the governments of the producing regions and provinces together will draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people, relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment.” Observers note that, while this section states that both the federal government and the regional governments will work together, a subsequent clause appears to contradict this. That clause states: “All that is not written in the exclusive powers of the federal authorities is in the authority of the regions. In other powers shared between the federal government and the regions, the priority will be given to the region’s law in case of dispute.” [Associated Press, 10/12/2005]
bullet Article 115 of the constitution would make it possible for provinces to organize themselves as semi-autonomous federal regions, with their own distinct laws. This means, for example, that regions would be able to negotiate contracts with oil companies on their own and exercise control over a bulk of the oil revenue. [Muttitt, 2005] However, the precise division of authority between the central government and any regional governments is not clearly stated in the document. “All that is not written in the exclusive powers of the federal authorities is in the authority of the regions,” the document says. “In other powers shared between the federal government and the regions, the priority will be given to the region’s law in case of dispute.” Most of Iraq’s oil is located in either the Kurdish northern region or the Shiite-dominated south. The Sunnis, who have ruled Iraq almost without interruption since 1920 and whose communities lie predominantly in the resource-poor provinces of central and western Iraq, are opposed to this federalist political structure. [Associated Press, 10/12/2005]
bullet The final draft of the constitution is missing an article that had appeared in an earlier draft declaring that it is “forbidden for Iraq to be used as a base or corridor for foreign troops” or “to have foreign military bases in Iraq.” [Asia Times, 10/15/2005]

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Iraqi voters approve a referendum for a new constitution (see also August 28, 2005). [Associated Press, 10/12/2005]

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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