ABSTRACT

In the last 35 years all countries in Latin America have replaced or reformed their constitutions. Most of these processes were carried out with scant regard for the law. Rather it may be said that often they were the result of actions that were bestowed ex post facto with political legitimation through constitutional change (BrewerCarías 2004). Shifts in the rules of the game that favour the promoters of change and the legal controversies that such processes engender are by no means a novelty. However, three recent experiences have attracted special attention from both local and international researchers. These are the constitution-making processes that have occurred in Venezuela (1999), Bolivia (2006-2009) and Ecuador (20072008). There are a number of reasons that explain the interest in these cases, most notably the fact that the three countries have experienced a political revolution through the elaboration of new constitutions that emanated from a constituent power embodied in a constituent assembly. Furthermore, the three cases share in common both that the parties or movements that pioneered the changes had recently assumed political power and that inequality, social crisis, corruption and the discrediting of party politics were all evident. Such a generalization may hide certain relevant differences, but reveals a common underlying theme: the insertion of a political conflict into the constitutional process, a conflict between, on the one hand, the elites that had hitherto controlled access to power, and, on the other, an emerging group that promoted far-reaching institutional changes with the support of previously excluded social sectors.