Jujuy approved a partial constitutional reform in the midst of ongoing protests

It was voted last night while teacher unions and state workers marched in the capital and other parts of the province

Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales. Credit Télam

With the streets of Jujuy still engulfed in protests by activists, teachers unions and state workers, the Jujuy Constitutional Convention surprisingly approved a partial constitutional reform last night with Governor and convention president Gerardo Morales at the head of the session. 

Morales presided over the vote, saying there’s “no going back” while defending the provision included in the reform that bans roadblocks as a form of protest, one of the main points of contention of activists’ who oppose the reform. 

“The right to manifest cannot impede other rights, and that is the debate connected to the consolidation of peace [here in Jujuy],” he said. The final approval was voted after only two weeks of debate of the different articles and provisions of the reform, that range from the judiciary to private property disputes and electoral scheduling.

Regarding private property, it allows for “quick and expeditive measure to reinstate” it once violated, stating that “unauthorized occupation [of a property] is a serious offense.” The reform also eliminates midterm elections, so 4-year legislator terms will now coincide with governor terms. It also dictates that the party who wins the governor election will get half of Legislature seats plus one, meaning they’ll have a majority.   

The main controversy, however, is connected to how the reform takes aim against protests. Other provisions included in the bill in addition to the roadblock ban state that demonstrations and other forms of social protest cannot “be carried out in a violent fashion or impede or pose an obstacle to the exercise of other rights” and the right to protest would be “regulated.” The reform also bans occupying public buildings as a form of protest. 

“Following the approval of general and particular aspects of this partial constitutional reform, the reform is hereby approved,” said Morales to close the marathon-type session, which began Thursday and ended around 4 am. on Friday. The 40 convention delegates voted to pass the reform, all of them belonging to the ruling Frente Cambia Jujuy and the Frente Justicialista, of peronism. Eight delegates resigned in protest over the reform, six from the leftist Frente de Izquierda Unidad and two from the peronist front. 

At around the same time the Convention started voting on the constitutional reform last night, a march of protesters carrying torches led by teachers was carried out in the capital and other regions, with activists’ chanting against Morales. Teachers unions have been at the center of the protests against Morales.

Morales is also the president of the Unión Cívica Radical party, one of the main parties in opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio. In March, he announced that he would run for the presidency in Argentina’s upcoming elections.

Even though the reform is provincial, the national government weighed in on the controversy over the modifications regarding the right to protest. Labor Minister Raquel “Kelly” Olmos said this morning she had instructed her team to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of those specific provisions. 

“The right to protest and to strike are fundamental labor rights protected not only by our Constitution, but also by international treaties, which carry the same constitutional weight. We have written a document stating the position of the national administration, and will also be requesting these provisions be declared unconstitutional,” said Olmos, in reference to the articles that penalize protests.   

Teachers and workers unions have announced a general strike for today. The province has been rocked by strikes and protests over the last twelve days, with different sectors demanding better salaries and opposing the constitutional reform.  

-with information from Télam


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