Inca justice system eyed by Morales in Bolivia may involve whipping
THE HAGUE — Bolivian President Evo Morales, on a state visit to the Netherlands, said he is searching for a new model of democracy that could include reviving the ancient tradition of whipping petty criminals as an alternative to jail.
“WhenIwasakidIwaspunished several times, being whipped and lashed,” the leftist president said Nov. 27 in a speech to an audience ofbusinessmenandgovernmentofficials from both Bolivia and the Netherlands.
“Whenever I did something wrong, I received punishment with a chicote [the loose end of a rope], and always believed that the system our ancestors used was better than the system in the northern justice system. It’s much more democratic,” he said.
The Bolivian Senate on Nov. 28 approved a sweeping land-reform bill after some 5,000 Indians from across Bolivia converged on La Paz, the capital, to demand that opposition lawmakers approve the bill proposed by Mr. Morales.
Somedemonstratorshadwalked as far as 300 miles in marches begun several weeks ago from the Andean mountains and plains of Bolivia, culminating in the rally in the capital.
The demonstrators were seeking to put pressure on Mr. Morales’ conservative opponents in the Senate who had blocked his proposal to redistribute millions of acres of un- productive land to the country’s landless poor.
Mr. Morales, elected with strong backing from his Andean nation’s Indian community at the end of last year, promised during the campaign that he would look to traditional practices to make the justice system more equitable.
Several Bolivians attending his address at the Institute for Social Sciences in The Hague said indigenous and traditional community justice was not only sanctioned now in Bolivia, but making a strong comeback.
One Morales supporter said Western-trainedlawyersandjudges in Bolivia put all criminals behind bars for 20 years or more, even if they committed only minor crimes. Defendants who can afford good lawyers, however, generally avoid any punishment at all.
The use of whipping to punish petty crimes in Bolivia dates back to the days of the Incas, when men were known to have walked around carrying colorful ropes in baskets.
“During the Inca empire,” Mr. Morales said with a broad smile, “a community-basedcourtsystemled by the village elders punished vandals and other criminals for their wrongdoings and determined how and when they would be punished.
“It mostly ended in a few lashes, like the one I received when I was a kid. They did it for my own good. Look where I am today.”