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The plurinational illusion
August 6, 2007
By Ricardo López Göttig

We live in times in which everything is questioned, and thus certain illusions spring up where the mind is confused, tricked into seeing an oasis where there is, in fact, nothing more than a desert. In the midst of the uncertainty that troubles so many inhabitants of the 21 st century, the idea of living communally and returning to the tribe is making a strong comeback.

Organizations that congregate the aboriginal communities in some South American countries are demanding the installation of plurinational states, as is happening presently with Bolivia's Constitutional Convention. The plurinational state involves each aboriginal ethnic group, recognized as a “nation”, having their own legal, political, economic and cultural frameworks, based on their ancient customs and traditions. In an earnest rejection of the concept of citizenship inherent to liberal democracy -due to its Western origins-, the right of return to a communal lifestyle is proclaimed, in which self-made laws will govern society. In this path lies the return to a system of physical punishments and, therefore, the disappearance of the constitutional guarantees that have spread worldwide. The descendents of Europeans – the “whites” – would retain their own legal and political system, inherited from the individualist West, whereas each aboriginal ethnic group would rebuild the system that existed prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the American continent. Therefore, along with the three classic powers identified by the Baron de Montesquieu in the England of his times, there would be a fourth plurinational social power, which would represent the “nations” of the multicultural country.

The paradox of this new century we are living in is that the plurinational state breathes life back into the apartheid doctrine upheld by racist South Africans for decades, which provoked the condemnation of democratic nations because of their despicable regime. Those who favored apartheid argued that each community had to follow their own cultural path and that, therefore, the African ethnicities had to be separated from the white minority. Thus many “countries” were created within South Africa – which were never recognized by the international community. Unlike the South Africans, it is those South Americans who are enthusiastic about the plurinational state who want to live apart. And that multicultural illusion might become the end of individual liberty.

Director of the Licenciatura en Ciencia Política at Universidad de Belgrano and Associate Researcher at CADAL.