Friday, September 28, 2007

A Latin-American Constitution

While researching the Constitutional Assembly election, I ended up reading a good chunk of the current (1998) Ecuadorian constitution. Almost the first half lists and explains rights, "shoulds" (deberes), and obligations of the people and the government. It's a far cry from the US constitution, which, aside from setting up the structure of the government, puts in writing only a handful of key rights, mostly things the government can't do, not things it should. It's a really interesting list they've got, although as a poor country, they have no way of living up to a lot of these aspirations. I like to imagine what the US would be like if its constitution included these things. We have the resources to make them happen, and perhaps if they were part of our constitution, we'd have to work on making our country really great, instead of wasting our resources stirring up hornet's nests around the world.

What are these rights and obligations I'm talking about? I'll try to translate a few that I found interesting for you.

One of the first things it says is that it is a "primordial obligation of the state to erradicate poverty and promote the economic, social, and cultural progress of its inhabitants."

It guarantees "the right to freely develop your personality," "the right to live in a healthy environment, ecologically balanced, and free of pollution," "the right to a quality of life that assures health, nutrition, drinkable water, sanitation, education, work, recreation, clothing, and other socially necessary services," and "the right to freely and responsibly make decisions about your sexual life."

The right to "habeus corpus" is clearly spelled out.

It promises to "equally support women as heads of households."

"Free and stable unions of men and women outside of marriage will enjoy the same rights and obligations as families created through matrimony."

"Public health programs will be free for all.... The State will organize a national system of health."

"The State will promote and stimulate culture, creativity, artistic work, and scientific investigation."

"Journalists' rights to professional secrets will be guaranteed."

"Publicity in any medium, which promotes violence, racism, sexism, religious or political intolerance, or that affects human dignity is prohibited."

"The government will promote and guarantee the equitable participation of men and women as candidates in the popular election process."

All of these are enough of a given here in this conservative, traditional country, for there to be sufficient consensus for them to be in the constitution, while in much more advanced America, we fight over many of these things, year after year. Interesting.

1 comment:

sarapennington said...

Wow. This sounds amazing. I hope many of these things carry over into the new constitution. Keep us posted...