December 12, 2016

Regional Trade Groups - Where is Bolivia a Member?


These are four images from the newly released World Trade Report from the WTO. The images show a complete list of regional trade blocks around the world. They also show where Bolivia is engaged and where not.

Source: World Trade Report 2016

November 23, 2016

Bolivia's Democratic Evolution


I might as well publish this other article which was also to be published in the failed Sage encyclopedia of democracy and democratization. Once again, enjoy.


Bolivia’s democratic evolution


Over the last 33 years Bolivia’s democratic process developed through three distinguishable periods. An initial period (from 1982 to 2000) was marked by the transition from a military dictatorship to a representative democracy, and the subsequent effort to consolidate the democratic process. A second period (from 2000 to 2005) was dominated by a loss of political legitimacy and deep social crisis, which, in spite of the efforts to consolidate the democratic process, placed the survival of democracy into serious question. The third period (from 2006 on) was marked by the emergence of Evo Morales, who, together with the country’s indigenous political forces managed to take control of power with a political alliance denominated Movement Toward Socialism. This entry aims to outline the development of the democratic process in Bolivia from the return of democracy to current times.

Re-democratization and Democratic Deepening

Bolivia’s transition to democracy began in October 1982 after a long spell of military dictatorships. This period was marked by a deep economic and social crisis, the implementation of neoliberal policies in response to that crisis and the efforts of subsequent governments to consolidate the democratic process. In response of the crisis, the Victor Paz government took the first steps towards its abatement by introducing neoliberal policies such as: liberalization of the economy, reduction of public expenditures, increase of government revenues and reduce the role of the state in the economy. While these measures promptly replaced the deep economic uncertainty with a new sense of macro-economic stability, over the rest of the period, the measures had negative social effects in the form of massive unemployment and low economic growth. Once the worst of the crisis was surmounted, the subsequent governments sought to consolidate the economic process. One first factor was the application of a coalition-building mechanism already present in the Constitutions known as Accorded Democracy, which allowed the establishment of arguably one of the most institutionally and procedurally stable periods for the Bolivian democratic process. Accorded Democracy greatly reduced the risk of congressional deadlock by promoting the building of majority governments. Another factor was the implementation of a decentralization program in 1994 under the label of popular participation, which sought the official recognition of indigenous and civil society organizations as legitimate political entities, the incorporation of such organizations in the political and economic process, the introduction and promotion of participative democracy, the guarantee for equality, and the perfecting of the representative democratic system. With this law, the government achieved the deepening of the democratic process by guaranteeing the involvement of citizens in the political process.

Political and Social Crisis

While the re-democratization process had been relatively successful from the institutional and procedural points of view, the efforts to consolidate the democratic process were deficient. On the back of citizen frustration over democracy’s unfulfilled expectations, the political system lost legitimacy through: first, the implementation of neoliberal policies, of which the most damaging was privatization. The government’s efforts to privatize the many state industries resulted in massive unemployment; and second, the public and indiscreet manner in which political actors practiced Accorded Democracy, which often concentrated on the distribution of public posts rather than the formulation of policy.

The period was marked by citizen frustration and it manifested itself in the form of massive and confrontational protests, road blocks and marches, most of which made uncompromising demands to the government while expecting results. The most significant protest episodes in this period were: the April 2000 successful reversal of the water supply system privatization in the country’s third largest city, Cochabamba; the episodes on February and October 2003 when there were violent confrontations between demonstrators, military and police forces where dozens of demonstrators fell victim of police repression; the times protests forced, and not exactly in a constitutional manner, the forced removal of two presidents: Gonzalo Sanchez and Carlos Mesa; and the largely irregular election of Eduardo Rodriguez, the third candidate in the line of succession. The former President of the Supreme Court and newly elected President Eduardo Rodriguez became president on June 2005 with the only task of organizing the next general elections.

Post-neoliberal era

The post-neoliberal era began with the arrival of Evo Morales in January 2006 to the government. His rise has been of historical significance for the country because he is the first president with indigenous background elected through popular vote. While his government has continued the economic progress began in prior governments, it has also placed emphasis on the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the political process, consolidating the government’s central role in the economy and relying on a strong anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal discourse to maintain its support. At the same time, Evo Morales has been criticized for attempting to restrict certain rights and liberties and for using the law in his favor to solidify his position of power in government.

During the two terms Evo Morales and the MAS have been in government they have been able to raise revenues by nationalizing Bolivia’s natural resource industries. In fact, the export of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina has become the single most significant source of revenue for the country. In addition, the government introduced financial transfers to incentivize children to stay in school and pregnant women to have medical check-ups before and after birth. It also introduced a minimal retirement benefit for seniors. These programs have lifted many people out of indigent poverty. On the other hand, critics have keenly observed Morales’ repeated disregard for the country’s new constitutional order and of the rule of law. He has been criticized for the manner in which he and his government have used the almost absolute majority in Congress to pass laws virtually without debate or opposition; to gain control of important public offices by removing opposition leaders with the use of recently passed legislation; and to appoint government-friendly justices. In addition, he has also been criticized for his efforts to silence criticism from the media by invoking recently passed legislation which punishes any statement that can be interpreted as racially motivated.

On October 2014 Evo Morales won a third consecutive presidential term with enough support to avoid a second round of elections. This time around, one important objective is to solidify the central role the government plays in the economy by creating national industries capable of diversifying the country’s production base. At the same time, the government plans to guarantee food security by playing a role in the production and distribution of important foods as well as assuring the price is accessible for all.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Stages of Democratization; Political Realignment; Protest Movements; Social Movements; Ethnic Mobilization.

Further readings

Farthing, Linda and Benjamin Kohl. Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014.

Creabtree, John and Ann Chaplin. Bolivia: Processes of Change. London and New York: Zed books, 2013.

Peñaranda, Raul, et. al. Treinta Años de Democracia en Bolivia: Repaso Multidisciplinario a un Proceso Apasionante (1982 – 2012). La Paz: Pagina Siete, 2012.

Dargatz, Anja and Moira Zuazo, eds. Democracias en Transformacion: Que hay de nuevo en los nuevos estados Andinos? La Paz: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2012.

Pearce, Adrian. Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia: the first term in conttext (2005 – 2009). London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2011.

Cameron, Maxwell and J. P. Luna, eds. Democracias en la Region Andina. Lima: IEP, 2010.

Dunkerley, James. Bolivia: Revolution and the Power of History in the Present. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2007.

Kohl, Benjamin and Linda Farthing. Impasse in Bolivia: neoliberal hegemony and popular resistance. London and New York: Zed Books, 2006.

November 21, 2016

Conceptual Context to Bolivia's Democratic Process: Waves of Democracy


This piece should have been published in a Routledge-sponsored "encyclopedia of democracy and democratization". But since the publication fell off the ground (I do not know why) and I had already written the article on waves of democracy, I am publishing it here. Enjoy! Please, do not forget to cite me.


Waves of democracy


Is democratization an irreversible, long-term, global trend? Is democracy a form of government that, under certain conditions and contexts, alternates with various forms of authoritarian rule over a long-term? These are the most meaningful questions the notion of waves of democracy addresses at its most fundamental level. Embedded within the democratization field of studies, the concept of waves of democracy (also referred to as waves of democratization or even as democratization waves) refers to the increasing propensity of non-democratic governments to transition towards democratic systems of governments over, more or less, distinctive periods of time. This observation was made by political scientist Samuel Huntington who coined and developed the concept. He first wrote about waves of democracy in a 1991 article published in the Journal of Democracy. He later expanded the concept in a seminal book entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published the same year.

Remarkably distinctive, the concept of democratic waves has been very useful to better understand regime transitions and, in a more indirect manner, the dynamics of larger issues such democratization processes, and ultimately, the application, endurance and stability of democracy as a regime system. In order the conceptually frame his analysis, Samuel Huntington took a chronological approach to the analysis of regime changes over a long period of time. This approach made it possible to shed light on the pattern of development, i.e. waves, through which this process could be better understood. In addition, it must be highlighted that the main focus of analysis were the so called third wave democratization processes. Samuel Huntington’s main conclusion drawn from his analysis has been to recognize that most probably, not one, not two, but many factors contribute to the democratization of countries; more likely, in a simultaneously and/or often contradictory manner. That is, for example, transition explanations for the first two waves covering from the early 1800s to the post-WWII period tended to concentrate on the role of factors such as economic development, cultural traits, decolonization and prior experience with such a government. Alternatively, the explaining factors concerning the transitions during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, tended to concentrate on the role of legitimacy problems of authoritarian systems, unprecedented global economic growth, changes in the Catholic Church’s doctrine against authoritarianism, changes in the foreign policies of international actors, and the enhancing of international communication which contributed to the snowballing effect.

This entry aims at explaining the nature and meaning of the concept of waves of democracy by, first and foremost, addressing the question: what is it meant by democracy? In second place, the entry presents the development of the term, to thirdly, present the more contemporary debate.

What is it meant by Democracy?

In order to delve into the waves of democracy subject it is necessary to understand first what type of democracy we are dealing with when we speak of ‘democracy’ in this context. To be able to follow the development of the democratic waves over time, Samuel Huntington used a contextualized definition of democracy. In that manner, in order to categorize democracies during the first wave, for example, the definition of democracy focused on two rather constraining requirements from today's point of view but adequate at the time. In the context of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a country that implemented male universal vote and chose its heads of states in a more or less competitive elections, was considered democratic. In a more modern context, this type of democracy can be understood as electoral democracy. However, the conception of democracy has evolved as has the practice of democracy. For that reason, in more recent times, both, academics as well as practitioners, starting with Samuel Huntington, have had liberal democracy in mind when speaking about the democratization of a country. There may well be many reasons for that, among them that the debate has been dominated by English speaking scholars who live in the United States of America or the fact that for many who dedicate their work to measuring the degree of democracy in a country have tended to have liberal democracy as a model of an ideal system of government or, not least, the fact that the American liberal democracy has become a model due to its resilience and stability since its inception.

As Samuel Huntington analyzed democratization processes in the twentieth century, he had liberal democracy in his mind when he thought of democratization. Liberal democracy has been defined as a type of democracy where democratic as well as liberal values come together. It includes the idea of free, fair, competitive and frequent elections; that political representatives get elected through an electoral process; that those results are respected by everyone with the full knowledge they are not permanent; the existence of political and civic pluralism; that people can express and associate themselves freely; that the rule of law guarantees equality and fairness; that people have free access to alternative forms of information; and that people can take part freely in the political process.

However, some authors criticize this assumption. For some scholars Samuel Huntington’s definition to democracy is not explicit enough, giving way to classify some countries as democracy which otherwise defined would not be considered as such. For other critics the definition is too narrow. They argue that it should be more inclusive of democratic as well as semi-democratic patterns. On the contrary, this last criticism often opens indeed the way for some countries with semi-democratic systems or even with apparent democratic systems to be defined as democracies.

Waves of democracy

The concept of waves of democracy is understood as the process through which groups of transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes take place within a specified period of time. Within each wave, there is an initial period where an increasing number of transitions towards democratic systems of government take place reaching a maximum after some time. Once that peak is reached, the direction of transition reverses and a smaller number of those transitions revert towards authoritarian or non-democratic regimes. Samuel Huntington observed three waves of democracy in world history. The first wave took place between the American and French revolutions in the last quarter of the XIX century and the first decades of the XX century. The second wave took place in the post WWII period and the third wave of democratization began in 1974 with the Portuguese return to democracy, with no end in sight.

The first wave of democratization

The first wave of democratization took place between the years 1828 and 1926. Rooted in the American and French revolutions, the first wave took roughly one hundred years. The most active time was however the time after the collapse of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and the Romanov empires. During this time somewhere in the order of thirty countries established some type of democratic institutions in their systems. Subsequently, the first reverse wave took place from 1922 to 1942. Notable was, the reversal occurring in the nations which had less experience with democracy and those new nations which emerged after World War II. Notable was also that almost none of the nations with long-term democratic experience had experienced reversal. The reasons for the reversals have been traced to the great depression, the inexperience with democracy of newly created nations, and the emergence of communist, fascist and military nationalist ideologies.

Second wave of democratization

The second waves of democratization, and the shortest of them all, took place from 1943 to 1962. This wave began in the aftermath of World War II and was, to some extent, reinforced by the beginning of the decolonization process. A counter balancing force, however, was the expansion of communism in the context of the Cold War.  All in all, around forty countries became democracies in this period. The second reverse wave happened between 1958 and 1975. By all accounts, this reversal period was the most significant. Not only because from thirty democracies twenty two had reversed to some type of authoritarian regime, but also because the decolonization process gave way to many new independent nations which turned authoritarian right away and also because this reversal had included some nations which had had experience with democracy for the best part of a quarter of a century.

Third wave of democratization

The third wave of democratization began in 1974 in Portugal. In contrast to the previous reversal, this rise in the number of democracies by a number of thirty five countries was impressive. Not only did this wave reach parts of Southern Europe, Latin America and Asia during the 1970s, where there had been prior experience with it, but endured throughout the 1980s and some part of the 1990s reaching Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa and the Middle East where democracy for the most part was a relatively new experience. The third wave is seen as a truly global event.

Debating about the waves

The overarching conceptual category framing the debate about democratic waves is regime change. Within this debate, regime change or transition may refer to a change from authoritarian to a democratic regime, from a democratic to an authoritarian regime or even to a change from an authoritarian to another authoritarian regime. The focus here is on the transition of the particular regime, without any specific direction. However, the debate over waves of democracy has a distinct direction which denotes a transition from a non-democratic towards a democratic regime. In this debate, which has generated a vast amount of literature, the questions have concentrated on the existence of waves and reverse waves, wave patterns, on whether these waves have happened in distinguishable periods, on whether there were only three distinct waves, and on whether the third wave is still happening or is it over or the waves in general are over.

The existence of waves

This part of the debate focuses on whether the waves of democracy were indeed waves. While the original argument makes use of the concept of waves to characterize the increase in regime transformations from non-democratic to democratic systems and the subsequent reversal of these transformations in a given time, Samuel Huntington warned that history was messy and not unidirectional and therefore it could not be expected that these historical events would fit a neat pattern as the one the idea of waves portraits. Nevertheless, he argued further, the conceptualization of waves of democracy was useful to understand the phenomenon.

In contrast, for many critics, the idea of wave patterns was difficult to argue, if not impossible. A group of scholars argued the different regime transformation patterns in question did not reflect waves precisely because these events did not fit neatly into the pattern of a wave. Instead, these processes could be better understood by looking for regional patterns, e.g. Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Maghreb. This approach takes into account the structural, socio-economic, cultural and contextual differences in each region. Moreover, for a number of scholars the manner in which Samuel Huntington defined waves using the percentage of democracies in the world at some point in time was problematic. Had he instead focused on regime transitions rather than the number of democracies he would have found no evidence for waves. Similarly, other critics find no evidence for reverse waves, which supports the contention of no waves.

Other critics, while accepting the idea of waves, criticized the manner in which waves themselves were placed in time and the number of waves that took place. Contrasting to what Samuel Huntington proposed, scholars have pointed out that the first wave was really two distinct ones. One involved the European-settled countries which had already managed to establish certain freedoms and rule of law and that over this period moved towards an expanded understanding of democracy by extending voting rights. The second cluster was made up of countries which in the aftermath of WWI became democratic because they lost the war. Additionally, the second Huntington wave could be divided into three waves. One made up of countries defeated in WWII, a second wave made up with countries born out of decolonization, and a third cluster included coincidences, mainly in Latin America. Lastly, during the so called third wave, two clusters could be distinguished. One was the wave of democratization that swept Southern Europe and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The second cluster had to do with the disintegration of the USSR.

Furthermore, other scholars argue a fourth wave is under way. With this scholars refer to the events beginning in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, albeit this wave having not produced as many stable democracies as one might expect in a wave. The argument highlights the differences in types of regimes and the time in which these events took place. In addition, other arguments have been proposed following this logic which introduces further waves at distinct points in time. This debate, to this day, has not been resolved, and it will continue until a clear pattern of reversals can be observed which would signal the clear end of the third wave of democratization.

Why do waves happen? External and internal factors

Another part of the debate concentrates on the factors that trigger waves. Based on Samuel Huntington’s argument, scholars have been able to identify internal and external factors playing a role in the transition process for an authoritarian regime to turn democratic. By the same token, scholars, by observing the transitions from democratic regimes towards authoritarianism or other non-democratic systems have also been able to discern relevant factors. The relevance of such factors and their contribution towards the establishment or reversal of democracy is what largely makes up the content of the current debate in this field.

Samuel Huntington proposed four ways in which waves happened. He first pointed to factors that could evolve parallel to each other, such as socio-economic developments. Second, he argued that many times there is an agreement among political actors across societies that institutional reforms are needed as solution to a particular situation. Third, he argued there were spill-over effects of democratization from one country to another. These could be elite-led or opposition-led. Finally, he argued that there could be one significant factor happening, mainly external - changing attitude of a great power or wars, etc.

Arguments highlighting internal factors tend to explain the first and third waves in the following manner. The first wave transitions before WWI signified a change to democracy from oligarchies by the extension of political rights such as universal vote and were primarily affected by internal factors. The third wave transitions were relatively quick and affected largely by internal factors and they were from an authoritarian to a democratic regime pushed by popular demand. Those scholars who tend to emphasize external factors explain the second wave thus. The transitions after WWI and the ones after WWII were affected mostly by external factors such as the aftermath of the two wars, the end of the major empires and the efforts to decolonize.

More often than none, however, there are explanations that combine both external and internal factors contributing to a democratization wave. Most of those arguments support Samuel Huntington’s proposition that regime changes do occur in waves, in particular regions and in particular times. For example, external factors simultaneously impact the systems of multiple countries, whereby the system in each particular country finds itself in an unstable period being affected by particular internal factors. Particularly susceptible are the countries where the institutional arrangements are not solid and the influences of neighboring countries are significant as are any external shocks to the interstate system. These, combined with the slow but certain impact of economic development, are the causes for waves.

Is the Third Wave Over?

Indeed, it is precisely the definition of this wave that triggered the most significant and enduring debate. The wave had been defined as beginning in 1974 and was literally left with no recognizable end. However, in most recent times, many scholars have argued the third wave did come to an end, while others argue it continues but in a different quality. Marc Plattner has suggested the waves are over. Primarily because within the pool of countries, the ones more apt for democracy have already transitioned while those remaining are less prone to democracy. Also, the attractiveness of the world's leading democracies has been declining and their institutions have been functioning poorly, therefore the attractiveness of democracy has diminished. In addition, foreign policies and supporting actions for democracy have been discredited. Finally, the influence and assertiveness of authoritarian regimes has been increasing. Moreover, many scholars have even go as far as recognizing a reverse wave, especially in the Latin American region, which would definitely bring the third wave to an end.

Other scholars argue the third wave has not come to an end but it is stagnating. They point out at the vast literature showing empirical evidence that very few democratization processes are being started. Finally, other scholars characterize the third wave as continuing to progress but in a different quality. With that is meant the various deepening or consolidation processes having been started around the world.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Democratic Process; Stages of Democratization; Liberal Democracy; Regime Type; South American Transitions to Democracy; South Asian Transitions to Democracy

Further readings

Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Huntington, Samuel P. “Democracy’s Third Wave”. Journal of Democracy, 2, 2, pgs. 12 – 24, 1991.

Plattner, Marc. “The end of the transition era?”. Journal of Democracy, 25, 3, pgs. 5 – 16, 2014.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. “The Third Wave: Inside the Numbers”. Journal of Democracy, 24, 4, 2013.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective: Conceptions, Conjunctures, Causes and Consequences. London: Routledge, 2013.

Perez-Liñan, Anibal and Scott Mainwaring. “Hegemony or Contagion? International Factors and Democratization in Latin America, 1945 – 2005”. Paper prepared for the FLACSO-ISA Joint International Conference in Buenos Aires, July 23 – 25, 2014.

Doorenspleet, Renske. “Reassessing the three Waves of Democratization”. World Politics, 52, 3, 2000.

Dahl, Marianne, Scott Gates, Havard Hegre, and Havard Strand. “Why Waves? Global Patterns of Democratization, 1820 – 2008”. Accessed on December 24, 2014.

November 17, 2016

Referendum November 2016: Departments and Municipalities "constitutions"


Source: Bolivian Electoral Organ (

On Sunday, November 20, 2016 Bolivia will for a second time in one year go back to the ballot boxes to cast votes for yet another approval referendum (plebiscite). This time around the people will be asked to approve or reject the regional or local constitutions, which have been in formulation since the process to obtain autonomy began in 2010.

Fifteen "territorial entities", as the different governmental levels are known in Bolivia, will be asking their inhabitants whether the regional and local constitutions they have written are good to go or not.

A breakdown of these looks as follows:

So called Organic Charters, which are the fundamental laws for municipalities, will be voted on in the municipalities of Viacha (La Paz); Totora, Arque, Vinto (Cochabamba); Sucre (Chuquisaca) and El Torno, El Puente, Buena Vista, Yapacaní and Cuatro Cañadas (Santa Cruz).

In Uru Chipaya (Oruro), Mojocoya (Chuquisaca) and Raqaypampa (Cochabamba) the vote will be over the so called originary/campesino/indigenous statutes, which would be the equivalent of constitutions for these type of territorial autonomy. In similar terms, Gran Chaco (Tarija) will be submitting its statute for approval. This would be a so called regional autonomy. Finally, the Gutiérrez municipality (Santa Cruz) will be asking its inhabitants whether they want to go down the road of an indigenous/origins/campesino autonomy.

The Bolivia autonomic process

The process of obtaining autonomy in Bolivia has been complicated. According to the law, there are four ways in which territorial entities can become autonomous: Departmental, Municipal, Regional and indigenous/originary/campesino.

Departmental autonomy is the equivalent to a state government in the US or a laender in Germany. Many times these are also labeled regions, but in Bolivia this distinctions has been important because of this reason. Municipal autonomy is just that, municipalities. One has however to remember that a municipality can cover an entire large city or a territory larger that the city. That depends on the number of inhabitants in that municipality. Regional autonomy, instead, are particular regions within a departamento. They cannot go over its boundaries. In Bolivia, the Chaco region is a particularly distinct region, hence its seeking autonomy. In contrast to the latter types of territorial autonomy, the indigenous/originary/campesino have been difficult to define. In the law they are not defined. After all, how to define territory on ethnic or identity basis without crossing many artificially created territorial units such as states or municipalities? However, in the particular case of Bolivia, these territories have come to be defined as the equivalent to municipalities. The difference is on the attributions and responsibilities each form has. To cut a long explanation short, the municipalities are the type of entities that have the most responsibilities and therefore the most financing. The other forms of autonomy have to do with ethnicity and identity and with tradition.

Lastly, the referenda are the last step of a long process, through which the formulation of such documents had to be written by officials, presented to the population through countless events, revised, voted on in the respective assemblies, checked by the national government for its conformity with the 2009 Bolivian Constitution to then ask the citizens whether they also approved it or not.

November 12, 2016

What Will a Trump Presidency Mean for Latin America and Bolivia?


Source: Commons, free of licence
Donald J. Trump has won the November 8, 2016 elections and will, in January 2017, be sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States. That, pretty much, has been a more than surprising outcome to people of all kinds, supporters, opponents and "the conflicted" in between. No one was sure how determined that mass of mostly white, older, less well-to-do along with the better offs and some women were.

The reality is, the next US President will be Mr. Trump and everyone has to accept that fact and has to start making arrangements to live under his administration. After all, it was the result of yet another North American electoral process, where "the people" chose its next leadership.

While the question of leadership is already answered, that answer raises, at the same time, many more subsequent questions. In fact, the US is such an internationally-relevant country that these questions go beyond the national borders of the country. While North Americans will be asking themselves, things like, will Obamacare be repealed now? will the government build that wall along the Mexico border? will I benefit from the coming tax rebates? how many jobs will be created now and am I qualified for them? etc., countries around the world are asking themselves questions such as, will the US retreat from world affairs? will it protect its economy? will its approach to security follow the same lines it has been following so far? etc.

Along these lines, Latin American countries will be asking themselves the same questions. Above all, however they are asking themselves: What to expect from a Trump presidency?
However, before attempting to venture down this highly speculative question, at this point in time, it is necessary to get to know the next US President a bit better and what he brings to the office.

August 23, 2016

The Deconstruction of the Morales Government (Continued)


In a prior post I speculated on the deconstruction of the Morales government on the grounds that 1) his (ama sua, ama qhella, ama llulla) government's credibility was seriously undermined through the Fondioc scandal, which revealed serious corruption cases in a special fund used to finance, of all, development projects for the indigenous peoples; and 2) the persona of Evo Morales, who personifies the ideals and values of this government was also under attack on the grounds that Morales' private life, especially the revelation that he had an illegitimate child with a business woman and that that woman used her connections to the government to weave business deals with a Chinese company.

I also cautioned, the deconstruction was in process and that, most likely, the post was going to end in a to be continued...

Well, the process is still evolving, i.e. to be continued, however, it can no longer be called a deconstruction process. The credibility of the government as well as the persona of Evo Morales have been seriously damaged, but the Morales government is still standing.

This begs the question: how have they managed to control such damage?

The Morales government has acted as it has been acting all along, it has taken the reins of the problem and has provided a solution benign to itself.

First of all, it has used the law to bring things into control. That is, the very law it has been passing with the help of its overwhelming support in Congress. Two moves are to highlight: 1) the defense lawyers have been legally cornered in to a situation where they themselves were being accused of some crimes. Both lawyers saw cases presented against them and, at least one of them, was in jail for some days. Now, both have left the case and Bolivia and have sought asylum in other countries. Number 2) the woman who has been in and out of jail, at times being for several weeks behind bars, has been placed in a situation where the crimes she was being accused, are slowly being dropped due to lack of evidence, and her new defense team has been less prominent and, perhaps more efficient?

The news reports have ceased to dominate the headlines. Above all, because no media outlet has been able to see the child, while other outlets have provided evidence that the whole thing was invented by the woman. A real telenovela.

With that, the scandal has been largely dropped aside and the government has been able to turn its attention to other issues. The government still seems to stand strong with the support of the people, however it has not been able to come out uninjured from the scandal. Now, the litmus test will be whether Morales, in spite of the negative results in the last referendum which asked whether Morales could run for another term, is able to gather enough support to once again try to get permission to run once more.

March 20, 2016

What Morales Should Do in His Remaining Time


It has come a time in which the Bolivian government should take a moment to seriously ponder what should it's next move be. This is a good moment for that because, after six consecutive and significant electoral victories, it has just experienced it's first defeat in the February 21 referendum on constitutional reform. A defeat, which will deny the continuation of Mr. Morales as president of the country, and which has shown the fallibility of the MAS as a party. Four years are left for Mr. Morales; years which may be devoted, not to find a way to stay in power in spite of the referendum results, but to instead consolidate his 'Process of Change'.

Morales' Process of Change

If you are a reader of this Blog, you have already seen the posts about Mr. Morales' Process of Change. If not, here is a post on that topic to read as a background.

The Process of Change is the big project the Morales government is trying to implement in Bolivia. According to Mr. Morales, it has basically meant a complete change, from a previous, undesirable neo-liberal state to a 'new' more desirable, inclusive, socialist state, where the state is at the center of everything. The most distinctive characteristic of that process has been the creation of a new political culture, which was achieved through the active and actual inclusion of the indigenous people's in the political process. Forms of inclusion have not only included the access of individuals with indigenous backgrounds to the highest political posts in the nation, but also the regular exchange between the government and indigenous groups. At least with the groups with better connections. The participation of indigenous groups has changed Bolivia in different ways.

Yet, before going into the types of changes, let me remind you this has not been the only time in which the government has tried inclusion. If we go back to the aftermath of the 1952 revolution, which created what is in Bolivia known as the 52 State (El Estado del 52), we can recall a concept introduced by the MNR (the party which took the revolution's leadership): co-government (co-gobierno). That meant, simply put, shared government. Within this system, the most politically powerful workers organization, the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) together with the mining unions, would have an integral role in government. That meant, alongside government officials, COB and union leaders would take part in the governmental decision-making process. Just to clarify, back then, most indigenous people were organized in form of syndicates and unions. Furthermore, in the early 70s, during the Torres military regime, the co-government was partially re-established and the Popular Assembly (Asamblea Popular), a legislature made up of politically relevant corporatist groups, was introduced. Once again, here is necessary to highlight that most indigenous groups had been organized as unions, syndicates and social groups.

While inclusion has not been a new objective, the Morales government has experienced the largest and deepest inclusion of indigenous peoples in Bolivian history. At this point in time, I am, for simplicity of the argument, attributing the government what has been a long, arduous, well planned and better executed plan. The arrival of the MAS was started by the social movements back in the mid-1980s, when in a conference they decided to create a political instrument which will make it possible for those groups to gain political relevance by playing with the rules of the game. Evo Morales, has had, both the skill and surely luck, to become the principal figure and thereby a type of symbol of this, what I call, process.

The result of this process, which arrived its highest point through the Morales government, has been the fact that the political elite was virtually replaced by a new, more indigenous, elite. Once again, not only the government began with a more indigenous face, but the majority of the seats in Congress held individuals of indigenous descent. Furthermore, this happened at all levels of government. So you had, and still have, in Bolivia a situation where the departmental governments and the municipal governments have a majority of individuals of indigenous descent.


Nevertheless, in order to make a profound change, it is not just enough to change the entire political elite. It is a good start, but it is not enough. In this regard, the Bolivian government, taking an active role, began a process of institutionalization of the Process of Change. This however did not only mean the complete reform of the government, i.e. ministries, agencies, public administration, and so on. This institutionalization went beyond that.

For that reason, one of the government's first moves was to rewrite the constitution. In 2009, the newly rewritten Bolivian Constitution was approved by a national referendum and, as a result, the Plurinational Bolivian State was born. Furthermore, according to the government, since it was a new state, it needed new laws. That was the reason why the government and the new legislature wrote and passed again the most important laws. These laws replaced their earlier versions. In this post you can read about some of the most important laws of the time. Since 2010, the Legislative has passed almost 500 laws. In this blog you can see a comprehensive list since 2010, albeit it is all in Spanish.

But why was this type of institutionalization important? The answer was, and still is, the Morales government needed a new legal environment to proceed with the Process of Change. In the years following Morales' first election, he repeatedly complained he wanted to do things but his lawyers did not allow him much room for action. After the Plurinational State was created and the laws began to be activated, his government could finally begin with the next steps, such as with nationalization and the transformation of the economy from a more or less liberalized system to a system where the state would play a central role. The new laws also allowed the government to bring a bit of political stability by passing, for example, the decentralization and autonomy law, which had the convenient effect of pacifying the opposition.

The defeat: why it happened and what it means for the government and it's party?

Considering the above explanation, it seems the Bolivian government's Process of Change has come a long way. Indeed, the current stage of this process would be, if you listen to the government, the industrialization phase. The government is investing important sums of money in the creation of value added industry, such as factories producing sugar or refineries to produce diesel or even thermo-electrical plants to turn Bolivia the center of clean energy in the region.

The question almost everyone was asking me when the referendum results were being reported was why did Morales lose? Indeed it seemed a contradictory outcome. However, what many forgot was the fact that the referendum was not about evaluating Morales and his administration. Most people are still supporting Morales' policies. The referendum was about reforming the 2009 Constitution to allow Morales to run a fourth time for the presidency. Let us remember, it is not too long ago, when Bolivia was led by a military dictator. It might be that democracy meanwhile is over 30 years in practice, but many citizens can very well remember those days of dictatorships. It very well may be that Morales thinks no one else can do the job, but for many Bolivians when some one wants to change the constitution to stay in power, does not leave a good impression. It does not matter how well Morales is doing.

What should Morales do?

He should do instead concentrate on the formal institutionalization of his political organization/party, the MAS.

Let us remember the MAS is not a classical political party. With that I mean, it does not rely on an ideological tradition, it is not organized as such and it does not seek to aggregate (at least a part of) society's political preferences to translate them into policies.

The MAS is more of a political organization; one which is constituted by a diversity of groups with a diversity of interests, each of which have at least two levels that separate those interests. At the meta level the issues are broad and, at least in that context, generally applicable. Examples are indigenous interests such as inclusion, political participation, rights, and identitarian processes. At the more particular level, each one of these groups have their own interests that shape their agendas, which they seek to implement. These can be from border issues, to infrastructure needs, jobs, to education and health.

While the MAS, it can be argued, is already institutionalized, its institutionalization is still weak. The MAS has a pretty rigid vertical structure that goes from the local level of leadership directly to Morales, and vice versa. The MAS is a heavily personalistic organization. That is, most decisions rely on the weight of Evo Morales, as a leader and symbol of the movement. In that sense, it has until now been visible that most decisions have been made at the top and carried out by the, what Morales calls, bases. Howver, decisions are also discussed at the local level in discussion groups, cabildos, ampliados (assembly meetings), etc. The decisions are then transported to the top according to each organization's structure. It is usual that such organizations making up the MAS' bases have different levels of decision-making, for example, there are those that have departmental or regional levels. Other organizations have stronger local structures that might even reach the individual or family.

What should Morales do instead in the remaining of his term?

He should concentrate some efforts at institutionalizing the political process inside the MAS. He (or they) should establish a process by which the next MAS leader can emerge. Building up a structure of institutional offices and roles where the aspiring future leaders can acquire experience and prove themselves can be of advantage. At the same time, he (or they) should establish a mechanism to regularly elect the emergent leaders. In addition, he (they) should implement mechanisms to make decisions, as democratic and as transparent as possible. Lastly, he (they) should perhaps think on adopting an ideological tradition, one which can provide guidance in the future.