Indigenous Justice in Bolivia: Promises and Limits of Plurinational Constitutionalism

The 2009 Constitution of Bolivia took a radical plurinational turn by enshrining the Indigenous jurisdiction withing the constitutional order, placing it on an equal footing with the state-centric ‘ordinary jurisdiction’. Ten years later, a study of the administration of justice by four Indigenous communities in Bolivia suggests that some of the benefits of this legal recognition are offset by resistance to structural adjustments that it requires. On the one hand, the change has empowered Indigenous actors seeking to solidify and amplify the significance of Indigenous legal traditions within their communities, and the constitutional court has proven resourceful and creative in mandating respect for Indigenous cosmovisions that are at variance with Western law. On the other hand, a desire to quickly press ahead raised issues of coordination, with legislative and judicial maneuvers to stifle or derail efforts to implement Indigenous justice locally.