Puno region renamed “Quechua and Aymara Autonomous Federal Region”

By means of a simple majority vote, Puno’s Regional Council on Thursday approved a motion to change the department’s name to “Quechua and Aymara Autonomous Federal Region,” a move quickly denounced as illegal by constitutional experts and lawmakers in the capital, Lima.

After an hour-long debate, six of ten council members accepted the proposition submitted by Aprista party Yunguyo province representative, Neyellko Gutiérrez Quispe. The name change aims to stress indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and to consolidate a multi-ethnic and pluralistic cultural democracy.

The Regional Council then agreed to establish a multiparty commission charged with improving the original name-change motion, and diffusing the department’s new name to the population.

The move has spurred heated debate and criticism, as it has been deemed “unconstitutional” by most constitutionalists and many of Peru’s legislators.

The motion is “nonviable,” constitutionalist César Valega . “It’s merely a lyrical declaration, given that the name of a region is determined by law and cannot be changed by a regional ordinance.”

There is nothing wrong with using the Quecha-Aymara identity, but changing the region’s name has no constitutional legal basis, added Congressman Yonhy Lescano, Puno’s representative and member of the centrist Acción Popular party. “Puno can’t be an autonomous federal region, it goes against the law.”

In Peru, a representative democracy in which most legislation and budget decisions are still centralized despite initial steps towards regional autonomy, the constitution states that “the state is whole and indivisible.”

“It’s not fair to be losing time on unproductive debates,” said Congresswoman Margarita Sucari, of the Union for Peru party. “Important projects have fallen behind, and nevertheless they want to deal with an issue that will just be left hanging.”

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