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Costa Rica government calls for constitutional reform

December 5, 2008

President Oscar Arias´ administration will push for a Constituent Assembly to change Costa Rica´s nearly 60-year-old Constitution and alter the interplay between the branches of government.

Calling the country “ungovernable,” Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias said Wednesday that local government should wield more authority and the Executive Branch should have more power vis-a-vis the Legislative Assembly.

The Legislative Assembly can make minor changes to the 1949 Constitution with support of a two-thirds majority. But substantial reforms can be made only by a Constituent Assembly, which can be convened either by the Legislative Assembly or through a national referendum.

Marvin Carvajal, a law professor at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), worries that a Constitution overhaul could erode social guarantees that have helped Costa Rica achieve greater social progress than its neighbors. He also fears that the assembly members might weaken provisions that have kept government abuses in check.

“Furthermore,” Carvajal said, “if politicians haven´t been able to agree in the Legislative Assembly and other forums, what makes you think they can reach accords in a Constituent Assembly?”

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