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The constitutional reforms in Latin America

Published: 2018.09.17 - 22:32:29   /  /  Dra. Ana Teresa Badía Valdés  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

The constitutional reforms in Latin AmericaThe current constitutions of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua are among the most recently reformed in Latin America. They are texts that socially emphasize, above all, the opposition to neoliberalism and globalization.

Since the end of the 1980s, several countries in the region have put into force new constitutions that contain significant changes to achieve the conception of more inclusive, representative and just societies. Even in some nations such as Brazil and Argentina, the constitutions helped complete the transition from the military dictatorships of that time to democracies.

More recently, for example, the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 was promoted by the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution Hugo Chávez and was amended ten years later. In addition, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, promoted in his first mandate -2006-2009- the drafting of a new constitution to "refound the country," he said. Then came a new Magna Carta of Ecuador, in 2008, which was promoted by the former president Rafael Correa, which was more on a par with the economic and social changes that took place there during the last decade.

In Argentina, the last constitutional reform, the seventh since 1853, and one of its novelties was the introduction of immediate presidential re-election for a single time.
Moreover, the Congress of Nicaragua approved, in 2014, a partial constitutional reform that established the possibility of reelection. The current Constitution there came into force in 1987 and since then had been changed in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2007.

The reformulation of the Magna Carta in those nations has represented the inclusion of the rights of indigenous people, homosexuals and women. Nevertheless, the need to consolidate institutional mechanisms, which ensure the materialization of these documents in a total manner, remains a challenge. These constitutions, undoubtedly, have had a transcendence not only symbolic, but also real.

The "New Latin American Constitutionalism"

According to Doctor in Political Philosophy, Pedro Salazar Ugarte (2015), in the last years of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, a constitutional phenomenon called by the theorists "New Latin American Constitutionalism" emerged in Latin America, characterized in the cases of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia for being a robust document that contains a wide catalog of rights (natural, human or fundamental rights, according to each historical time and theoretical tradition). This catalog of rights incorporates diverse philosophical traditions and is particularly sensitive to the historical traditions of the countries in which it is valid.

Other data worldwide

After 1945, European constitutions sought to amend the legal systems that had emerged years ago. With the so-called neo-constitutionalism, an attempt was made to find a different model to the constitutions elaborated in the eighteenth century, and which were taken as classic models for two hundred years. New constitutions were then created for Italy (1947), Germany (1949) and Spain (1978), among other nations.

Between 1978 and 2012, there were 388 changes in the constitutions in Latin America. In addition to those mentioned above, other countries that have made reforms to its constitution are Paraguay in 1992; Peru in 1993; Colombia in 2004; and Mexico in 2013, Costa Rica and Chile.

The Constitution of the United States - the oldest that is currently in force in the world - was adopted in its original form on September 17, 1787, and has been amended on 27 occasions.

Salazar Ugarte, P. (2015). Sobre el concepto de constitución. Available at:

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