Bernal, Constitutional change

void in Panama
“The constituent power can do everything and is not subject beforehand to any constitution.”

For a new constitution

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

I have always advocated a constituent process as a civic and academic commitment, always seeking an open, informed, pluralistic debate that will lead us to a constitutional change.

Forty-seven years after it was imposed, the 1972 militarist constitution is no longer amenable to more patches or band-aids and, much less, for what some people who are clueless in civic matters have wanted to call “timely reforms.”

I recently wrote of a distinction. Constitutional Law teaches us that “reforming the constitution means altering something in its articles without changing its essence or substance. Today, more than ever before, the citizens’ power should guide any constitutional change. This will not happen if we do not accept — all of us – that the only subject of power is the political community, that the people are the only subject.

From 1978 to the present, most Latin American countries have replaced their constitutions, often in radical ways. Nations have introduced changes to electoral regulations, presidential powers, decentralization schemes, forms of organization, functions and powers of the parties. judicial and legislative bodies, as well as control bodies and mechanisms. So, we see how constitutional change is a particularly important case of the broader phenomenon of institutional change.

The persistent and growing criticism of various sectors of the citizenry, the exclusionary nature of the political regime, the inexhaustible corruption of parties and legislators, the inability to guarantee public safety – these as well as the marked inequality promoted by the measures of the different governments, leave no doubt about the urgent need for true constitutional change.

The imperious oligarchic establishment, fallen into the clutches of kleptocrats, insists on proposing and imposing “reforms” that will contribute nothing to improve the effectiveness or legitimacy of the imposed constitutional regime. The 1972 militarist constitution has already exhausted its role and greatly exceeded the capacity for survival. We have to prepare ourselves to enter into a constitutional change. We have to be decisive, with a will to live and a determination to live with dignity


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