"The two-thirds issue is a question of life or death for us; it is question of survival for the country," PODEMOS member Tito Hoz de Vila said at the time, as reported by the Andean Information Network.
   Procedural issues like this tied the hands of the Constituent Assembly for months. Substantive discussion remained non-existent as MAS and its opposition jockeyed for leverage in the Constituent Assembly and control of public opinion.
   According to Ledebur, the ambiguously worded Convening Law was as much to blame for the delay as the gridlocked political forces.
   "There was a lack of clarity in the laws and legal framework for the Constitutional Assembly," Ledebur said. "The rules of the game were not clearly established from the beginning."
   Progress was also impeded by what many viewed as a consistent effort by the opposition to disagree with every suggestion MAS made.
   "From the get-go there was an effort to impede and to stall, and an idea that the passage of the constitution would be an approval for MAS, and the defeat of the new constitution or an inability to pass it would be a way to take Morales and MAS out of power," Ledebur said.
   But MAS was not above reproach in this conflict. Ledebur said MAS was sometimes guilty of trying to use its majority as a legislative steamroller, forcing its will on the process. However, she is quick to point out where MAS learned such tactics.
   "A lot of things the opposition complains about of MAS are things that are not great, but are things that they learned from the opposition because they had done this to them for so many years," Ledebur said.
   After eight months, it was ultimately decided that individual articles had to pass by a two-thirds majority and that those without the necessary votes would go directly to the people through a public referendum. With the rules set, only four months remained for the constituyentes to distill the will of the people into a constitution.

Another problem
   Members of the opposition continued to protest at every available opportunity in those remaining four months. No issue was more divisive than the battle for the capital.
   Sucre was the sole capital of Bolivia at the time of the country's independence, but after a brief civil war in 1898 and 1899, the executive and legislative branches of government were moved to La Paz, leaving the judicial branch in Sucre. To this day, Bolivia remains the only country in the western hemisphere with two capitals.
   With the assembly convened in Sucre, local leaders hoping to bring more economic development to their region argued that the entire seat of government should be returned. Sucre was more centrally located, they argued, while La Paz was north in the heart of the Andes. When the assembly voted to not consider the Sucre proposal in July of 2007, the reaction was explosive. Many members of MAS feared for their safety.
   "When Sucre proposed that they become the capital, they did not do it in a democratic manner, but in a way that suggested violence and racism," Chivi said. "This marked the beginning of an oppressive period for Indigenous people."
   Assembly leader Lazarte hoped for the best but feared the worst.
   "What matters to me is that there is no bloodshed, massacres or calls for social convulsions," she said at the time.
   Protestors from across the country converged in Sucre, and strikes were called throughout Bolivia. More than 1 million people gathered in the streets of La Paz on July 20, 2007, to show support for keeping the capital there. Amidst the turmoil, the Constituent Assembly voted in August to move the mandate deadline to complete the new constitution to Dec. 6, 2007. But any momentum gained from the extended deadline could not quell the danger from the protests. They continued for months and became increasingly violent. By November, the Associated Press reported that protestors had even seized control of Sucre's airport, stopping air travel to and from the city.
   Jim Shultz from the Democracy Center, an organization dedicated to supporting Bolivian democracy, wrote of the late November situation in this way:
"[A]nyone looking honestly at the events of the past week here has to recognize that Bolivia is a nation on the edge of a precipice. More than one journalist has quoted me this past year saying, 'Never underestimate the ability of Bolivia to look like it is about to careen over the side of a cliff, and then not do it.' Well, the possibility seems less remote now."

Identifying the will of the people
   Though the protests stalled the process, the Constituent Assembly still had work to do.
The process behind the creation of the constitutional articles dealing with land use exemplifies the highly democratic and inclusive creation of the constitution. Twenty-one commissions within the Constituent Assembly focused on the broad constitutional issues in Bolivia, including the Land and Territory Commission and the Strategic Vision for the Country Commission. The constituyentes and commissions were supported by legislative aides, who helped identify and assess the multitude of issues within their commission and break them down so the constituyentes could better understand and discuss them.
   Esteban Sanjinés, a Bolivian lawyer who specializes in land management theory, was an aide to the Land and Territory Commission. His responsibility was to make sure everyone in Bolivia was directly included in the constitutional process in a more tangible way than simply voting for constituyentes.
   For months he crisscrossed Bolivia, holding meetings and collecting proposals for the constitution. Everywhere he went, people were eager to share their opinions. Many who were unable to attend the meetings mailed in their suggestions or put them in suggestion boxes.
   "We had to systematically organize around 2,000 proposals that arrived from the citizenry," he said in Spanish. "It was an extraordinary amount of documents such as files, pages, books, notebooks and handwritten notes."
   Once the recommendations were collected, Sanjinés and his co-workers worked to track each individual suggestion and compile them to produce a comprehensive land-use strategy.
   While proposals ranged from those with a laissezfaire view of property ownership to those who demanded that all land be owned by the state, Sanjinés noted clear tendencies toward policies like restrictions on agrarian land use and allowing the government to seize land that was not being used for a public benefit. However, though there was common ground, regional differences were easy to spot.
   "The interest of each city was different," Sanjinés said. "For instance, here in [Indigenous Andean] La Paz, Oruro and Potosí, they wanted to include topics more concerned with Indigenous citizens. This did not happen with people from [lowland, nonindigenous cities like] Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Pando, where the topics were more related to the production of the land."
   The highland and lowland disagreements made synthesizing all the opinions particularly difficult, but in Sanjinés' opinion, they succeeded.
   "We were able to find out together the common core and the important topics that had to be in the constitution," he said.
   Once all the proposals were processed, Sanjinés presented his work to the Land and Territory Commission for consideration. As a result of this process, significant articles appeared in the constitution, including limits on how much private property an individual could own and a provision allowing the government to take land that was not being put to a good social use.

The plurinational state
   Another role non-elected Bolivians played in the assembly was that of consultants. Akin to lobbyists, consultants worked with constituyentes in an advisory capacity.
   One such consultant was José de la Fuente Jeria, a Bolivian lawyer based in Cochabamba. Hired by the Center for Campesino Research and Promotion, or CIPCA, for its Spanish acronym, de la Fuente was sent to the assembly to ensure that the Indigenous Guaraní people were represented. While there, he engaged in debates, forums, workshops and discussions on issues about Indigenous people, as well as meetings with the government, members of the United Nations and other constitutional experts from around the world.
   Although he is extremely proud of the constitution, de la Fuente concedes that it is not perfect.
   "The number of articles is large, and it is complicated," de la Fuente said in Spanish. "Despite those errors, it is a mark of pride that the Bolivian Constitution was made with the participation of all the Bolivian people. It was so complicated because it was a complex process of social participation, of interests being represented and many agreements that had to come through. At this moment, the Bolivian Constitution is one of the most progressive constitutions in the world."
   What makes the constitution exceptional, de la Fuente said, is the way it renamed the Republic of Bolivia as the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
   "The highest point, the soul and the spirit of this constitution is that the first article speaks about a multinational state," he said. "In Bolivia all the Indigenous populations, Native nations and [Spanish descendents] are recognized as components of the Bolivian people. This is something far more than a multicultural acknowledgment. It is the reality of a multinational state."
   Though largely academic, the distinction between a republic and plurinational state makes a world of difference to de la Fuente. It points to the inclusion of the Indigenous peoples of Bolivia in the very foundation of government.
   "The multinational state is a republican form, but it emphasizes the multinational composition of society," he said. "Bolivia is not a republic because it incorporates nationalities. It leaves behind the term 'republic' because 'republic' is the typical form of the modern state linked to the one-national state, like France or England, which are one-national states. Bolivia does not. Bolivia recognizes that there are many nationalities in the Bolivian society."

Final drama
   As the assembly neared its new end date of Dec. 6, 2007, progress continued despite the ongoing protests. Fear was an everyday part of the assembly. As the protests continued in the streets and attacks on constituyentes became a more significant problem, the decision was made that the Constituent Assembly could not be safely completed in Sucre. Late in November, with the Dec. 6 deadline approaching, a series of controversial maneuvers were made by MAS and the assembly to ensure that the constitution was completed on time, according to a Democracy Center blog post on Nov. 27, 2007.
   First, the assembly was relocated to the military city of Oruro, which the opposition felt stifled debate and criticism. Then, just prior to the Dec. 6 deadline, all the new pieces of the constitution were voted on in one marathon day of voting, which PODEMOS boycotted, perhaps thinking MAS would not vote without them or maybe as a political ploy to preemptively invalidate the constitution. Nevertheless, the voting took place. Finally, the Bolivian National Congress was given a chance to make changes to the document as a way of making peace between the Morales government and the opposition. More than 100 modifications were made, according to the Bolivian Information Forum.
   Ultimately, as close as the Constituent Assembly came to careening off of the cliff, it never did. The completed constitution received 61 percent of the vote in a national referendum, an overwhelming show of confidence from the Bolivian people. This country, formerly dominated by a minority, had now legally enfranchised the Indigenous majority. Bolivia peacefully and democratically turned its society upside down. Bolivia was refounded.
   The process was by no means smooth and the path forward, full of debate over implementation and further compromise, remains difficult. The Bolivian constitution is long and lacks cohesion. But even in its imperfection, it represents the will of the Bolivian people. From the suggestion boxes scattered across the countryside to the national referendum, the will of the people was heard. The seeds of hope that were planted within these boxes have borne the fruit social of change. The will of the people of the nation of Bolivia is for the first time the law of the land.