A Note about the Comparative Constitutional Study

Now, more than any other period in history, there is a profound commitment to strengthening democratic governance throughout the Americas. Constitutions, as the fundamental juridical pillars of democracy, merit serious contemplation. In the PDBA's Constitutions Section we provide the constitutional text of each one of the 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere. Since constitutions are both promulgated and reformed to provide blueprints for democracies, it is a basic requirement to have these fundamental laws up-to-date. The Constitutional Comparative Study provides an overview of different possibilities to build the rule of law utilizing a specific methodology created by the PDBA research team in consultation with very well-known Latin-American constitutionalists. Therefore, we hope that policy makers, international officials, scholars, students and citizens alike will benefit from this effort. In this Constitutional Comparative Study (Estudio Constitucional Comparativo) we include the norms of 20 constitutions, with the aim of discovering the similarities and differences between constitutional norms in presidential regimes throughout the region, the changes taking place within them, as well as the prospective models for reforms. This is particularly important because we want to contribute to the promotion of democratic values vis á vis the continuing pattern of instability that affects governance, democratic consolidation and institution building in some Latin American countries.

In this study, the most current official texts are analyzed in their original languages. In the two non-Spanish cases, links are provided to the U.S. and Brazilian Constitutions in Spanish. Every article of every Constitution analyzed in this comparison has been included. With patience and navigation, every article and precept can be found and compared. We've attempted to design the most logical format, but we understand that individual systems of logic vary. By far the most difficult part of the comparative study was devising an analytical framework which could provide common points of comparison for Constitutions as diverse as those of Brazil, the United States and the Dominican Republic, yet still serve to highlight the unique precepts of each country's guiding document. Necessarily, the present comparison is dynamic, flexible and complex. Repealed articles were not included in the analysis. On the issue of format, amendments and reforms presented one of the major challenges; in cases where new texts were promulgated by the Governments with the reforms incorporated into them, the new documents were analyzed. In the other cases, the amendments directly follow the original articles in the analysis.

The present analysis is based largely on the invaluable original constitutional project compiled by Marcel Galindo de Ugarte in 1993. It was enhanced greatly in 1998 and 2002 with the support and contributions of Janette Stevens, Teresa Lara-Meloy, Denise Johnson, Carlos Guzman, Carolina Aldana, Jorge D'Agostino and various legal experts and scholar as well as Latin Americanists at academic institutions in the United States. The last update began in the second semester of 2005 as a research directed by Beatriz Ramacciotti with the contributions of Kelci Lowe, Karen Bozicovich, Samantha Fraiah Weisz and Lucas Gómez, among others.

The dynamism of this project will continue in the future. As new Constitutions and reforms are promulgated in Latin America, the comparison will be updated. We hope to include in the next phase of the project, a similar comparison of the Constitutions of the parliamentary regimes in the Western Hemisphere.

Beatriz M. Ramacciotti
Director (2005-2009), Political Database of the Americas
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

May 2006