Morales Government Calls on Bolivia Supreme Court Justices to Resign
February 12, 2009 - Latin American Herald Tribune

LA PAZ -- President Evo Morales's administration requested the resignation of the Supreme Court justices, arguing that their mandate had ended with the promulgation of the new constitution, Bolivian media reported Wednesday.

Justice Minister Celima Torrico called for the resignation of the 11 magistrates because Article 183 of the new constitution provides for terms on the high court of six years and the current justices will have served 10 years in March, the term under the previous charter.

Justices Hector Sandoval, Jaime Ampuero and Enilse Ardaya, who expressed their opposition to the new constitution before it was approved in a nationwide referendum last month, said that they will not leave their posts until March, when the terms to which they were elected are up.

Sandoval told the press that his remaining on the bench until March 24 was in accord with the transition regulations of the new constitution, which was approved by 61.4 percent of the votes cast on Jan. 25.

Former President Carlos Mesa, who served from 2003 to 2005, told Bolivision television that the country is going through a transition period in the implementation of the new charter, and he denounced the government for trying to destroy the judicial branch, a move he said constituted a "coup d'etat."

"None of the transition regulations can be interpreted as (designed to) destroy the judicial branch. Whoever destroys the executive branch, whoever destroys the legislative branch, whoever destroys the judicial branch is carrying out a coup," Mesa said.

Deputy Justice Minister Wilfredo Chavez said that because of an "ethical issue" the three justices "should leave their posts," since - in his judgment - a "terrible contradiction" exists in that as long as they remain on the bench, "authorities who do not have minimum loyalty" to the new constitution are nevertheless responsible, in part, for "fulfilling it." EFE