June 25, 2004

Corruption, the enemy of Autonomy?

MABB is a registered TM.

StaCruz-demoThe display of support for regional autonomy from around 150,000 people in Santa Cruz de la Sierra has sparked a debate over a topic that up to now was taboo in Bolivia.

The participants of this demonstration gathered around the Cristo Redentor monument to demand the Mesa administration for a referendum on the issue of regional autonomy until the end of this year.

Such demand has sparked criticism from the part of politicians and government officials in La Paz. The minister of Economic Development, Horst Grebe Lopez, has criticized the demand as a step backwards for Bolivia. Members of parliament representing MAS, NFR, MNR, MIR, have also criticized harshly the call for autonomy. High officials of organized labour (COB) have questioned the motives of such a move.

On the other side, the Santa Cruz parliamentary faction has confirmed its support and intentions to continue working for the referendum. As have municipal officials of Santa Cruz and leaders of civic organizations.

One major aspect of this debate is whether or not autonomy will indeed bring Bolivia forward in its efforts to re-activate its economy and bring much needed stability in the country. If we look around for other examples that provide a positive argument for increased autonomy, we can find an interesting example in the case of Spain. However, Bolivia is no Spain. The differences are real and have to be accounted for.

Corruption is a malign cancer which is ingrained deep within Bolivian society. Is from this point of view that one can see problems arising when and if autonomy is implemented. There are plenty of examples to cite at the moment arising from popular participation and the municipal governments. The latest example being the tragic case of Ayo-Ayo, where the mayor was murdered by people on the community. The community cited the Major's illegal appropriation of municipal funds for which he was being investigated and the freezing of such funds as a result of the investigation. Similar indictments were filed in the municipalities of Warnes, Buena Vista and San Miguel de Velasco located in the department of Santa Cruz. The accusations also point to municipal officials appropriating funds illegally. These funds were also frozen.

These kinds of conflicts bring great problems for the municipalities themselves. In one case, the hospital does not have any electricity because the local government cannot fulfill its obligations. In other cases, government projects cannot be implemented due to the lack of funds. As a result people suffer and are pushed to their limits.

The real danger of this situation is the reaction a community will or might have as a result of the problems affecting the community. If some municipalities decide to follow the example of Ayo-Ayo, as in the case of Warnes, then the central government has a real difficult situation in its hands.

Moreover, with autonomy in place, won't these cases of corruption have more opportunity and even more incentives? After all, these corrupt officials will not have anyone to control them and will be responsible for their own actions. The opportunities for all kinds of irregularities are there, I'd say.

June 23, 2004

Washington politicians crown the "new messiah"

MABB is a registered TM.

That's right, you read it correctly. A group of Washington politicians (from both sides of the isle) took time from their busy schedules to support the coronation of the leader of the Unification Church and owner of the Washington Times, Rev. Moon, as the new messiah.

I would not have believed it, had I not read it in the Post and MSNBC, as well as other journalistic blogs, and seen it with my own eyes on video and pictures. I post here some pictures and links to the sources, so you amuse yourselves with this ridiculous story and sorry display of complete lack of judgment from the part of the US Congress.

moons coronation2

moons coronation1


Here are some links where you can read to your heart's content.

The MSNBC article is here.
This website is devoted to this topic.
Here is the Washington Times version of the event.
This is the Hill's version.
From this page you can link to see the movie.
This site tells how many children Moon has. Wow! He is a busy man.

June 21, 2004

La Nacion Camba?

MABB is a registered TM.

nacion camba "Aspiramos a crear nuestro propio Estado sobre la base de nuestra cultura y nuestra historia. Nosotros, la Nación Camba, y su instrumento de lucha, el Movimiento Nación Camba de liberación, vamos a ser lo que NOSOTROS QUEREMOS SER, y no lo que OTROS QUIEREN QUE SEAMOS."

"We aim to create our own State, based on our own culture and our own history. We, the Camba Nation, and our instrument for struggle, the Movement for the Liberation of the Camba Nation, will be what WE WANT TO BE, and not what OTHERS WANT US TO BE."

I guess I always knew there was a strong feeling of regionalism in Bolivia. After all, the rivalries between the cambas, the collas, the chapacos, the cochabambinos, etc., were just another aspect making up the multidimensional cultural angles of Bolivian society. Such feelings were best represented in a soccer match between Bolivar of La Paz against Blooming of Santa Cruz, or a match between The Strongest of La Paz against Wilsterman of Cochabamba. To me these were just regionalist feelings, which would fade as soon as Bolivia was up against Brazil for a world cup qualifying match or when Tahuichi Aguilera would win the U-18 world cup. To say the truth, I never thought about the possibility of the disintegration of the Bolivian republic.

However, these are times of deep social problems in Bolivian society, and as a result, the worst tends to surface.

The rise of groups like the Camba Nation have clear implications for Bolivia. The clearest is the disintegration of the nation as it is. What the Camba Nation seems to be looking for, according to what they say, is: Autonomy and Self Determination. Even though, they do not specifically mention their intention to secede, they do not say the contrary either. The principal goal is self rule. But, this self rule or auto-determination is a step towards independence.

They further make their case by expressing openly, and in hostile words, their disapproval of the concentration of power in La Paz. They also feel exploited and colonized by the central government.

How is this going to play in the national context?

One immediate result would be that of other regions in Bolivia, like the chapacos, or the cochabambinos or the orurenos (can be anyone) making the same claims and starting similar movements, that is if they haven't already done so.

A second result would be to provide with some legitimacy other similar movements like the Movement without Land (MST) or the Aymara or Quetchua nation....

A third result would be to increase social instability within the territory.

One last result would lead to the erosion of power and control of the central government over the national territory. This is accompanied by the weakening of the rule of law.

Bolivians, are embarking in turbulent and unknown waters, which may lead them into the destruction of what all Bolivians have fought since 1825. There are already alarmed voices in the world pointing to signs in these turbulent times.

What is Bolivia, as a country, gearing towards to?

June 18, 2004

Taking the law in their own hands: Communal Justice

MABB is a registered TM.

Is Bolivian democracy disintegrating little by little? Has the government lost the ability to apply law and order upon the entire territory?

It seems that the Mesa administration has indeed lost control of Bolivian territory. It also seems, it has lost the respect of the population and the moral authority it needs to govern.

Now more than ever, we are seeing examples of groups of people (be it a political party, civil organizations, or population in certain regions) taking actions that make the central government, at times, irrelevant.

The latest example we can observe is in the town of Ayo-Ayo, 85 km from La Paz (52.8 miles). On monday, June 14, 2004, the Mayor of Ayo-Ayo (Altamirano Calle) was kidnapped, beaten and murdered. According to several people close to the family and to family members as well, there are several suspects to be investigated. One of them, Saturnino Apaza is already in custody.

However, several civic groups in and around Ayo-Ayo as well as La Paz, blame what they call the "corrupt authorities" of the government. Moreover, they speak of Communal Justice, as a form of justice pertinent in their towns.

In essence, the facts are: a crime committed by a radical group aginst a local authority. The perpetrators are somehow vindicated by the so called "communal justice". The central government ends up being the guilty party. Guilty of what? The crime or ineptitude?

As if that would not be enough, community leaders backed by other organizations active in the region, have given Mesa, one more last "ultimatum". Either he complies to their demands, which some of them are a bit irrational, or they will blow up an electricity tower, cut the flow of a gas pipe (both supplying energy to La Paz) and will block the road between Oruro and La Paz.

The demands are: to free the only suspect of the crime, and to bring to justice several alleged "corrupt officials" from the local and central government, among others.

Such acts, are becoming a general practice in this struggle between the social movements and the government.

For example, a group of indigenous people who are members of the Santa Cruz Federation of Neighbors and Undocumented, have started a hunger strike and plan to crucify themselves with real nails if the government does not give them papers, employment and a place to live.

Another example, is the radicalism of the inhabitants of various Potosi communities. According to a report by El Diario (La Paz newspaper)such communities are considering applying "community justice" to their own authorities. This is in response to unheard reports of local authorities' alleged corruption filed by several groups.

This is a trend sure to lead up to disastrous consequences, not only for the Bolivian government, but for the population in general. The Ayo-Ayo case sets a dangerous precedent for other similar communities that feel the government does not hear their calls.

June 04, 2004

Fun with US politics......with a little "liberal" touch.

MABB is a registered TM.

Here are a series of short commentaries on US politics. They were written by Al Kamen of the Washington Post.

Would GOP Go to India for Votes?

By Al Kamen
Friday, June 4, 2004; Page A21

One of the odder tales floating around these days comes from the press in India, which reports that the Republican National Committee has outsourced its fundraising and voter canvassing call centers to Noida and Gurgaon, that is, India.

A recent Hindustan Times story said an Indian company owned by HCL Technologies Ltd. ran the phone banks. It cited "HCL sources" and detailed how many teams were involved, the contract dates, how many GOP voters were called (8 million) and even what the callers were paid per hour.

The RNC flatly, totally, completely denied the allegations, which had been heavily peddled by the Democrats, saying it was an "untrue urban legend." The contract signed by the RNC and telemarketer Capital Communications Group Inc. of Mesa, Ariz., explicitly states all calls be made in the United States. And the RNC, we're told, closely monitored the contract.

Also, Sumit Bhattacharya, HCL BPO executive vice president for marketing and strategic planning, told our colleague Rama Lakshmi in New Delhi last week that "HCL BPO neither worked nor solicited contributions for any political party. We have no further comments on this matter."

But the Hindustan Times, a rather conservative, 1 million circulation English daily, is standing by its story, an account reporter K.A. Badarinath told us he spent weeks working on.

The oddest thing is that Capital Communications, a key player in this strange yarn, which received nearly $500,000 from the Republicans last year and nearly $3.5 million in the 2002 election cycle, appears to have gone out of business. Its phone number is "no longer in service," the recording says, and there's no new one. Efforts to locate its president, Bill Tierney, so far have been fruitless. The RNC says it doesn't know where he is.

Still, while the Hindustan Times may be writing more on this, absent some additional documents, on-the-record sources or some other corroboration, this story appears headed for the dustbin.

Path Looks Like Dead End

Everyone talks about how crucial the Latino vote is going to be in November. Both parties are putting out literature and Web pages in Spanish in an effort to communicate better with this huge constituency.

The Republicans have a sign-up page -- called "Abriendo Caminos" or opening paths -- that promises Spanish-speaking folks that President Bush and the GOP will "send you weekly news about the topics that most interest you."

The sign-up page asks the usual stuff -- name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. You are to check which of many listed topics -- immigration, health, Social Security, corporate responsibility, crime prevention and so on -- are of most interest.

Then it asks what you are. There are four options: war veteran or retired military; teacher or educator; senior citizen; or farmer or rancher. That's it. Nothing for lawyers, doctors, engineers or corporate executives to check.

Not even a box for "otro?"

Sworn In, Sworn At

Freshman, very freshman, Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), just elected Tuesday, showed up in the House yesterday as ecstatic Democrats hailed her as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Dems had picked up a Republican House seat.

Then she cast her first vote against some GOP proposal on unemployed workers.
Ka-Boom! The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately put out an attack news release headlined: "Herseth's first vote puts politics ahead of people." What's more it's a flip-flop of her pledge just the day before "to put partisan politics aside," the NRCC said.

She's only 33, but the Republicans say her memory's already shot. She "forgot who elected her, and she's only been in Congress for a few hours," NRCC communications chief Carl Forti said. She's "more concerned with appeasing . . . liberals."

Man, these guys are good. A perpetual-motion attack machine. Only five months to go to the next election.

Homeland Security Puts Notch in Belt

Congress cobbled the Department of Homeland Security from a number of agencies but never bothered to rework its oversight activities: some 88 congressional committees with jurisdiction over pieces of the new organization.

Yesterday marked a historic moment for DHS: It had its 100th hearing of this year. DHS Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology Penrose C. Albright carried the honor as the witness before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Given that Congress really didn't get rolling until February, and subtracting recesses, that puts DHS officials on the Hill on a lot of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

So let's have a big Happy 100th for the DHS.

It's All Right for Ike to Have a 'Crusade'

Let it not be said that Bush and his team don't learn from past mistakes -- not that they've ever made any. Bush took a lot of heat shortly after 9/11 when he talked about a "crusade" against terrorism. Folks in the Arab world took umbrage.

So Wednesday, Bush, at the Air Force Academy commencement in Colorado Springs, compared the war on terrorism to World War II and quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower's words to the troops just before D-Day.

" 'Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force,' " Bush quoted then-Gen. Eisenhower as saying. " 'The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.' "

Bush cut Ike's line: "You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months."

I don't put a link to the article because you have to sign up and I thought some people might not want to do this.

June 03, 2004

The end of El Mallku?

MABB is a registered TM.

El Mallku Felipe Quispe (a.k.a. El Mallku) has abruptly quit from his parliamentary post in the Chamber of Deputies. He charges this chamber with not working in the interest of Bolivians, in particular the indigenous people he represents.

However, he will still postulate for the highest post of the CSUTCB (workers confederation), of which he is still the leader. The CSUTB is a powerful organization giving Quispe a broad base of supporters. He also plans to continue as leader of his political party MIP (Indigenous Movement Pachakuti).

Is this move ideologically or politically motivated?

It seems to be a little bit of both. In an interview Quispe argues, he quit because his integrity was being called in question. Many of his supporters questioned his earnings as deputy and some even questioned his commitment to their cause. He also argues that congress favors the rich and the US, by passing laws which benefit both. He further referred to the US immunity law passed by the Senate last February. This law is now being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies.

On the other hand, deputies on his own party, have denounced Quispe as a collaborator of Sanchez de Lozada and of a lackluster performance in congress.

But the Quispe saga is not yet finished. According to the CNE (Electoral Court) Quispe needs to file more papers to make his decision official. He has not yet officially quit. He needs to comply with regulations dictating the process by which he leaves the chamber and relays his duties as Deputy to his substitute.

Once Quispe leaves public life, it remains to be seen if he will stay as leader of CSUTCB or, as he says, go back to work the land and fight for his political base.