Proposal launched to rewrite the nation’s Constitution

Proponents presented a proposal to rewrite the Costa Rican Constitution at the legislature Tuesday.

The measure, which will be handled like any other proposed law, would create a constitutional convention to draw up a new document.

The proposal Tuesday came from Maureen Clarke, a legislator from the Partido Liberación Nacional, who said that the document carries 221 signature. Setting up a constitutional convention would require a two-thirds favorable vote by lawmakers.

An alternative would be to set up a national referendum, but the complexities of the concept might be a barrier for full understanding by the public.

The idea of a new document to replace the one approved in 1949 has been around for a long time. President Óscar Arias Sánchez supported the idea when he was in office in order to enhance what he called the governability of the nation. His brother promoted the idea in 2008.

Every chief executive seems frustrated at the snail’s pace of creating new laws. Some ideas include requiring the legislature to act on a measure promoted by Casa Presidencial in a short time and to restrict the ability of minority party members in making amendments to proposed laws. Sometimes lawmakers have to wade through and vote on hundreds of amendments which may be proposed as a stalling tactic.

Some legal minds also have proposed restricting the powers of the Corte Supreme de Justicia. The Sala IV constitutional court is notorious for making new laws. One proposal is to restrict the magistrates to addressing the constitutionality of issues and eliminate the public’s right to appeal issues involving constitutional rights directly to the high court. There are hundreds of such private appeals every year.

Proponents see an election in which delegates are picked from every province. But the process is still fairly fluid. The proposal will be introduced formally and then assigned to a committee for hearings.

The measure is sure to prompt concerns from those who are worried about the erosion of human rights, worker rights and the possibility of unintended consequences.

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