December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas!

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I'd like to wish all visitors and readers of MABB a very merry Christmas and an even happier New Year.

I am just about to head out to celebrate Christmas. I will be out of town until next week and hence unable to blog regularly.

Once again , merry Christmas and enjoy you holidays!

A Piece of Good News and a Joke With Bad Taste

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First things first. A piece of goods news for Bolivia and the newly elected government. It seems Evo Morales will be starting his government on the right track, even thoug he did not have anything to do with it.

The IMF announced yesterday it was releaving 100 percent of Bolivia's debt with the organism under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). This announcemnt was made by Rodrigo Rato, Managing Director of the IMF. Rato said:

"I am delighted to announce that the IMF will grant 100 percent debt relief to 19 countries under the MDRI (including remaining HIPC assistance) amounting to SDR 2.3 billion (about US$ 3.3 billion). This is an historic moment, which will allow these countries to increase spending in priority areas to reduce poverty, promote growth, and to make progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. These countries should receive this debt relief in early 2006."

The other countries to recieve the benefits of the MDRI are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

This must be a well received piece of news, not only for Bolivia, but for the entering government. The relief effort will start on January 1, 2006 and will give the tight Bolivian budget much needed room. The IMF stands ready to lend Bolivia more money to support programs to eradicate poverty, start growth and to achieve the Millenium goals.

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On another piece of news, there was a joke played on Evo Morales on Monday by this guy. His name is Federico Jimenez Losantos. He conducts a radio program called "La Manana" in cadena COPE, a Spanish media network owned by the Spanish Catholic Church. Mr Jimenez got the bright idea to call Evo Morales to congratulate him for his victory. Up to then there is no harm, but, Jimenez did it in the name of the Spanish government and furthermore he impersonated the Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. You can even hear the phone call in this link. The whole thing is in Spanish, of course, but if you can understand it, it is pretty funny.

Well, It seems like a nice joke, right? No harm done. Not so, the Bolivian government has gottent really upset and has complained to the Spanish government. Now the Spanish government has taken the issue to the Vatican because the radio network, as stated earlier, belongs to the Catholic Church.

Press in Spanish about the issue:

Moratinos pide al Vaticano que evite “hechos deplorables“ como la llamada a Evo Morales

Torpeza de comediante afecta relacion bilateral

Un humorista de la cadena COPE conversó con Evo Morales haciéndose pasar por Zapatero

FEDERICO JIMÉNEZ LOSANTOS

La Conferencia Episcopal admite que la broma es «inaceptable» y que la COPE debe disculparse

Una avería fortuita silencia a la cadena COPE en Cataluña durante hora y media

Update: An interesting comment by Fistful of Euros can be read in this Link.

December 21, 2005

Update, World Reaction and Some Reflections

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According to the CNE, what will now be the newly elected president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, (the only one elected with a majority vote) has reached 54% of the votes being counted. With 92% of the precincts reporting and Cochabamba, Tarija and Pando already accounted for, Morales can be officially called Mr President, now.

I dont't know what you all think about the results, but for me this is an astounding result beyond what my mind could have ever imagined. It is going to be very hard to pick at Morales' legitimacy.

The reactions did not let themselves be waited too long. Scott McClellan, the White House press guy, congratulated Morales and expressed the US government's expectations that Morales' government act within the framework of Democracy. Moreover, McClellan said that the US government would take the relationship with Morales' government one step at a time and according to how it behaves. A cautious approach.

A surprising comment came from Ignacio Walker, first diplomat of the Chilean government. He said that Chile was ready to speak to Morales within an agenda "without exclusions". This would mean that the issue of sea access for Bolivia is on the table again. Moreover, Ricardo Lagos, outgoing president of Chile is specially interested in attending Morales' inauguration.

Luis Inacio da Silva, expressed his desire to bring Brazil closer to Bolivia. President Toledo of Perú talked to Morales of closer relationship between the two countries. Former sandinista guerrillero, Daniel Ortega, expressed his support and his happyness for Morales.

It is without a doubt the most significant event of this year for Bolivia. Where does it go from here? only Morales knows. Where are we, the observers, left? How to know what Morales will and will not do? Should we take him up on his spoken word or should we look at his party's programme?

Morales sure has his work cut out. One think we can say, the honeymoon period will last exactly 90 days. At least if we listen to what some activist in El Alto are saying. They have already given, whoever became president, 90 days to respond to their demands.

Morales will have to deal with, on the international front, the pressure of the US, which is not little. Off the bat, if he will want to legalize the growing of coca leaf, as he promised, he will have to deal with the US. That is without US funds. He will have to be careful not to alienate his current allies (Kirchner and Lula). One point of trouble are the transnationlas Morales swore to kick out of Bolivia, Petro Brazil and YPF. Will he play the double standard game and let these two companies off the hook? He will also have to worry about the eternal sea access issue with Chile. Will it get anywhere this time? He will have to worry about too much Chavez intervention. Now that Morales is in, Chavez will want to get paid for some of that support. The question is if Morales will let Chavez do as he pleases or will he really look out for the interests of all Bolivians.

On the domestic front, where to start. First, he'll have to worry about the Constituent Assembly coming up next year. He will have to respond to the demands of the El Alto rebels to try to bring back Gonzalo Sanched de Lozada to be tried. BTW, I wonder what is Goni thinking. :-) He will have to think about the autonomy efforts from Santa Cruz and see if he'll attend those demands. It would depend how he deals with that issue for the other rebels in Santa Cruz to start making trouble. He will have to worry about governability. He will have a confortable majority in Congress, but what about the prefectures? These offices are mostly in the hands of the opposition, as we can currently see from the results. He will have to deal with another intransigent demand, that of nationalizing the natural gas industry. Will he fully nationalize the carbohydrons? if so, how will he deal with the barage of suits in international courts being thrown at him by the international conglomerates? Will he go as far as to try to nationalize the utility services? Water for example? If we take him by his word, he'll will do away the neoliberal policies keeping the country economically afloate since the mid 1980s (law 21060).

As you can see, it is not little what he will have to deal with, once in office. With those antecedents, I would dare to predict (I know, only fools dare in this conditions, but what the heck, it's fun) two paths he'll follow. He will either follow the path of Alejandro Toledo, the other indigenous president in Latin America. Toledo's come to power gave with many expectations from the indigenous population in Perú. So high, that he could not live up to those expectations. He was the big dissappointment of the decade. The second path, Morales coud follow Hugo Chavez's steps and move ahead with the total control of the Bolivian state. The tools are there to do just that. It could even be easier for Morales. He would just have to take control of the nominations of constituents to the Constituent Assembly, just as Chavez did. Once there, he could construct wich ever country he'd like.

Yes, but it is easier said than done. So let's wait until next year to start speculating some more.

December 20, 2005

Bolivian Elections: The Results as They Come

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Interested in the official results? Go to this site: CNE

The National Electoral Court has a very cool (java) graphics presentation of the partial results. Your browser needs to support these applets, though. You can even take a look at disaggregated data and the official documents digitized. It's all there. CNE is doing a great job in bringing Bolivia into the 21 century when it comes to elections.

They are doing a great job!

December 19, 2005

Bolivian Elections: Preliminary (Almost Definitive) Results

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In the aftermath of the elections, it looks like Bolivia will have its first indigenous president in the person of Evo Morales Aima. The preliminary reports from the major media oultlets are reporting a MAS win with between 50 to 51% of the vote. If that were the case, that would be a historical and definitive win for Morales and MAS.

The media is also reporting that Jorge Quiroga (Podemos) and Doria Medina (UN) have already conceded to the winner. One news agency quotes Quiroga saying that he congratulated Morales and Garcia Linera for their electoral result. Even more definite was Doria Medina who said, "there was a clear winner in these elections, it wouldn't make any sense to to recognize it. We believe Morales will be the next president by mandate."

Morales has already spoken like a president and said, "today starts a new chapter in the history of Bolivia." He also critiziced the electoral court for the apparent massive invalidation of voters. Morales has also highlighted that with the absolute majority he will have a clear mandate and a necessary majority to govern. However, Podemos and UN have gotten enough parliamentarians to make a modes opposition. Also, it looks like Podemos will be capitalizing on the prefectures. If autonomy is followed trhough, that'll rest power and influence to the new government.

But, one more twist. Up until yesterday, Samuel Doria Medina has said he will not negotiate nor form an alliance with any party in parliament. That doesn't speak very well for the future of governability. I think, that'll be the next trick for the coming years.

But first, let's wait for the official results and the swearing in of the new president.

December 18, 2005

Bolivian Elections: Evo Morales Next President of Bolivia?

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Ok, could not resist. Here are the results of one of the first exit polls in the country carried out by the Unitel network. The results are as follows:

Evo Morales - 45%

Jorge Tuto Quiroga - 33%

Samuel Doria - 10%

Michiaki Nagatani - 7%

According to this exit poll Morales won the elections by a significant margin of votes, 12%.

How accurate are these exit polls in Bolivia? We'll know after this elections, I guess. But, again I would stress the importance to wait for the official results.

Bolivian Elections: Facts, Figures and Reports

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Now, the counting has began. All that is left to do is to wait for the counting to finish. I will not even attempt to follow the counting. It wold be a very long night for me. I will post the results as soon as they come out.

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Update 4: There are more reports on voter invalidation. The red erbol has an aproximation. According to their flash survey there are around 25 800 people who'll not be able to vote. In some cases there are whole towns who weren't able to vote. For example, in the town of Pongo, La Paz, out of 1875 registered voters, there were 1240 who could not vote. In Guayaremerin, Beni, out of 13000 voters, 7000 could not vote.

Just to highlight that these are preliminary reports.

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17:07 pm

Update 3: Voter invalidation has become a worrying issue and rests credibility to the process.

Affected regions

Santa Cruz: In the town of San Julian (north of Santa Cruz) there were irregularities. A contingent of invalidated voters wanted to take over the ballots and burn them. In Palmazola witnesses report about 40% of voters could not vote for invalidation. It is believed the targets were MAS supporters (digital intervention).

La Paz: In the northern part of the city there were many invalidations. Many people came out to vote late in the afternoon and learned too late they could not vote.

Cochabamba: Invalidation cases were wide spread, for example Sacaba, Quintanilla (500 voters in two tables).

Sucre: In the whole region there are pereliminary reports of 1200 people ivalidated in one town and 1468 in another. Sorry no names for the towns. But the reports are in the tousands.

According to unofficial reports from the Departmental Electoral Code or CDE there are around 1 million invalidated. That is about the size of the difference between eligible voters in the municipal elections 2004 and this elections. Officials are saying it is the foult of the people, because they did not register themselves in time.

The conclusions are that the legitimacy of the electoral process is in question and the process of eligibility is put in serious question. The CNE has a lot to explain.

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Update 2: The ballots are closed and the counting begins.

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Update 1: Many interesting things are happening in Bolivia while the voting process is going on. It is just about before closing the ballot boxes (4 pm). The voting has been pretty regular all over the territory, however there are increasingly many alarming reports of voter invalidation. At around 12 pm, in La Paz, there were some 200 people complaining in front of the National Electoral Court (CNE) as to why were their names taken off the voting lists. According to the law, people who voted in the las municipal elections, were registered to vote this time around. Now, when people showed up to vote, thinking they voted in the last elections, their names were not in the lists. This is not confined only to La Paz. There are an increasing amoung of reports around the country saying that people are being invalidades for some reason or the other. One serious report says that in Monteagudo province, Chuquisaca, 40% of voters could not vote. The vice-president candidate from MAS, Garcia Linera voiced his concern while he was voting in La Paz.

Now the problem is not so much that the people are worried about their lost vote. The worry is that since the vote is obligatory per law, the citizens have to get their voting certification. Without this certification they cannot do any paperwork and they will get fined. This voting certificate is a very important document for the next year or so.

At the same time, the gobernability horizon already looks dire after the resolution coming out of the National Worker's Popular Summit threatens that the El Alto demands should be attended within 90 days by whoever wins the elections. Otherwise, there'll be trouble.

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Here I post some facts and figures about the elections.

Eligible voters: 3.679.886 million

Electoral tables: 121,000

Elections begin: 8:00 am

Elections end: 4:00 pm

International observers: 200 from 124 countries

Bolivia returned to democracy: October 10, 1982

Number of consecutive elections: 5 (1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2002)

Mobilized military and police forces: 50,000

Everything has started well and according to plan. The CNE must be happy. Evo Morales has already voted at 8:45 am in his district in Chapare. Quiroga will vote at 2 pm.

More updates as I hear them.

December 16, 2005

Bolivian Elections: Images and News

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48 hours to E-day. Here is a last round of international headlines in the English world. They show, nervousness and perhaps a little worry from the part of the US as to the outcome. One headline says it all: `Nightmare' is on rise for Bolivia leadership, says the Sun Sentinel Online. "Now, holding the lead ahead of Sunday's presidential election, he's threatening to be 'a nightmare for the government of the United States.'", it goes on to say.

The BBC says: "Bolivia candidate 'US nightmare'." "Mr Morales has vowed to end free-market policies and legalise the growing of coca, which has traditional uses but is also used in the production of cocaine." Moreover, Reuters writes that the US is concerned over the Bolivian elections. Reuters quotes "U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington had long supported the current Bolivian government's counter-narcotics policy and hoped a new government would have the same approach. 'We expect whatever government comes next in Bolivia to honor those commitments that they have made to fight the production and transport of illegal drugs,' he told a news briefing."

With a bit more ecepticism, the Herald.com writes "Bolivia may give U.S. a new problem". "Evo Morales, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and a critic of the United States, appeared poised to get the most votes for Bolivia's presidency on Sunday. However, Congress will probably choose the winner because no candidate is expected to garner a majority.



But, above all, according to the Voice of America (VoA), the "US Expects Bolivia to Continue Anti-Drug Efforts". "The Bush administration has taken a low public profile with regard to the Bolivian election race, despite the publicity surrounding Mr. Morales, a one-time leader of the country's coca growers federation who is considered the front-runner in Sunday's election. But it is suggesting [now] that it might reconsider the United States' long-standing close relationship with the La Paz government if Mr. Morales wins and follows through with a campaign pledge to, at least, partially legalize the coca industry."

Note: images from Reuters and AP through Yahoo news.

December 15, 2005

Two Days Before the Elections

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Here we are, two days before the elections. I am glad to see Bolivia has stumbled through all the problems and has managed to still hold the elections. Although, to arrive to this, the government has had to strech the law and walk on a thin line between constitutionalism and un-consitutionalism. But, we're here.

Some comments are due, before we enter the final stretch. For starters, the last polls confirm Evo Morales and MAS being on the lead, but closely followed by Quiroga (Podemos). According to the latest polls conducted by Ipsos Captura and Equipos Mori, Evo Morales leads with 34% to Quiroga's 29% of the vote. This lead has increased marginally since the last polls I cited. However, as I have been highlighting, there is a significant part of the electorate who will be either voting blank or is not revealing for whom the'll vote. Added to this is the undecided voters. These three kinds of votes add up to a significant percentage. In the Ipsos poll, these add up to around 22% of the electorate. According to Mori, this number is around 21%. If these voters would vote in block, they would have a deciding role as you may imagine after doing the math. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that this number represents a big chunk of the electorate. It could almost be the third political force in terms of support, since Doria Medina is polling in the single digits still. However, the role of these voters is bound to be small since they are not a block. The undecideds theoretically could vote for any candidate, and probably will. One can discard the people who'll be voting in blank and as for the people who know who'll they vote for, they can be counted together with the undecided. In percentage terms we are talking about around 14% (according to Mori). In my opinion still somewhat significant, but not a deciding factor.

What could be a deciding factor is the latest MAS move. See, I think Morales has a good political consultant advising him. The reason is because he seems, to me, to be making very good political moves aimed at positioning him optimally not just in the polls, but in the elections as well. His decision not to debate, even though in my opinion was not very democratic, has only strenthened his image. First, he was able to publically discredit his opponent. Second he showed he is the champion in the fight against neoliberalism by calling Quiroga a neoliberal and saying he did not need to debate with a neoliberal. I think his political advisors have realized Morales doesn't need to debate in order to gain more supporters. They realize the Bolivian electorate is practically polarized and they just about have gotten as much support as they can. But, his latest move, as I said earlier, is made to solidify his standing. The vice president candidate Linera has expressed his party's openness to work with the other political parties in Congress in the framework of a programmatic plan, without forming political alliances. This is a good move if we take into account how much Congress is disapproved, and the reason is because everyone thinks that the so called mega-coalitions have distributed power among themselves, and nothing else good has come out of it. In this sense, Morales is opening himself up to negotiations to be elected president in Congress without having to distribute power within any new coalition. This move, leaves him open to discussion, yet good in the eyes of the average voter.

All will not be said on Sunday. The most interesting part will come the following weeks.

In the mean time, there is a period of intense scrutiny in which Bolivia will be entering as of 0:00 hours in Friday. There are a variety of things Bolivians will not be able to do while in this period. The CNE has issued a resolution, with the force of law, to assure a good outcome of the elections. For instance, two days before Sunday and one day after, it is forbidden to sell and consume alcohol, bear arms, to organize any public venue, transport voters from one precinct to another, drive around in a private car, to travel by land anywhere in the country and every airplane landing has to be authorized. Also, since voting is obligatory by law, he who does not vote will be fined, he who does not have a voting certification will also be fined, those public servants who do not ask for the certificate while conducting official business will be fined, those who lied at the registration and those electoral officials who do not report irregularities will be fined.

So as you can see, all is well and on track. This Sunday 18 Bolivians will (try) choose their new president and will start down a road to founding a new country through what is to be a rough road ahead.

Earlier posts about polls: here, here, here, here

Also see: Miguel at Ciao! has been busy looking at the polls.

December 10, 2005

Will Evo Really Win?

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If there is anything good to point out, at the international level, coming out of so much chaos taking place in Bolivia, is the amount of coverage Bolivia is getting because of it. What I mean is that because of the crises of late and the upcoming December 18 elections, Bolivia has been the subject of coverage, news analyses, opinions, statements, and so on. The amount of journalist arriving in Bolivia at the moment is unprecedented. Thanks to that chaos, Bolivia has been constantly under the spot light in the international news. This kind of notoriety, if not necessarily good, at least has placed Bolivia firmly in the world map. As a result of this, there are more people who know where is Bolivia and moreover, some people might even know who Evo Morales is. That could be seen as an advantage in the future. Of course, the reputation Bolivia is getting is not really something to be thankful for.

Some of the news coverage has lately been concentrating on the elections. As it would be expected. To cite some examples I provide links to the latest news. If you are interested to see more, just click on the Yahoo news search results for Bolivia on the side bar.

Coca farmer turned saviour of the left promises wind of change in Bolivia

Coup threat riles election atmosphere

Latin America: A Native Speaker

Bolivia's Nightmare

Oppenheimer: Bolivia may be next thorn in Washington's side

Bolivia MAS Warns Oil Transnationals

However, there is one piece of news, which has been circulating around which makes me think about the kind of attention Bolivia is getting. While the attention might be benefitial, the accuracy of the reporting leaves much to be desired. The following link is an example of what I mean.

Bolivia at the Crossroads: The December Elections

This is a report from the International Crisis Group, released recently. This report has been making several rounds on the news. First being cited by the MSM and then by various newspapers, which shall remain nameless.

If you read the report, you come out thinking (and this is my major concern) that Evo Morales is the leader of a solid block of indigenous movements united behind him. This implies that every single person is a Morales supporter. Of course, if one just looks at the polls, he or she can easily conclude that at least 30% of the population are behind the MAS candidate.

And I am not saying they are not. They might just be. But, as I pointed out earlier in this post, those polls are not all that trustworthy. So, we come to the question, does Evo Morales have a united front against the other candidates?

My thinking is, not. The short answer is that the polls reflect that people are united not behind a candidate, but behind two major issues alwas kept in front of them by their leaders. This issues are the nationalization of the hidrocarbons and the effort to bring former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to court for the victims in October 2003.

The reason that Evo Morales does not have a solid base of supporters is simply because we are talking about group of people as diverse as they come. Each one with their own preferences, values, necessities, etc. Each village, be it in El Altiplano or the far tropics near de border with Brazil or Paraguay have their own necesities and reality in which they live in. Thus there are many divisions and opinions of how the country should be conducted. In some villages in El Altiplano, there are fights about territory. For that matter, in the villages themselves, are differences of opinions. Last week, Jorge Quiroga was trying to hold a rally with his supporters in one village close to the Titicaca Lake (I forget the name) and suddenly MAS supporters appear and prevent Tuto from holding his speech.

Another reason is the way in which these people are organized. Evo's supporters are organized into groups of different nature. It can get very complicated. There are federations, confederations, worker's centrals of each department and many regions, sindicates and neighborhood associations. This last kind of organization penetrates deep into the society. Since it is a neghborhood association, it directly reaches each neighbor. Additionally, these are very, very hierarchical organizations. Almost all of them (I would say all) have leaders or so called "dirigentes" (leader). Another aspect is that many organizations overlap eachother. So, one person might belong to two or many organizations, depending on his or her activities. This last aspect tends to split a voter's preferences.

Each one of these organizations have their own goals, which might not necessarily concurr with those of their neighbor or with those of the MAS candidate, for that matter. One recent example is the conclusions that came out of the National Popular Workers Summit, held this past week in the city of El Alto. To this summit, organized by the three biggest and highest organizations in this structure (the COB, FSTMB, COR) attended a miriad of organizations from all over Bolivia. The most important conclusions were:

to push for the process against Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada

to wait with the "mobilization" until after December 18

In the debates, one could observe opinions ranging from the most radical which propose armed insurrection to take power by force to true democrats who want to take the so called movements away from violence to embrace true democratic ideals. There are those who have lost trust in Evo Morales and equal him with Quiroga.

After much debate, since Thursday last week until Saturday, the organizations could only come together in those two points cited above. That means only one thing, when it comes to defending what they call the resources of Bolivia, they are united, but after that is every one for themselves. After all, there is a reason why Quiroga is almost tied with Morales. Taking into account there are about 67% of indigenous people in Bolivia. That is, not counting those who are but do not want to count themselves among them.

In the midst of so much diversity, the opinions are also diverse. As a result, all of these organizations, as a group, can only agree on some points. In my opinion, these points are:

The nationalization of the natural resources

Bringing Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to court making him responsible for the victims fallen in October 2003

However, the force uniting them the most is the fight against what they consider their worst enemy: Neoliberalism, personified in the Globalization process. In that, they are not alone. Many people around the world have similar feelings.

It is these facts that reports like the one cited above ignore. While the general coverage about Bolivia has increased exponentially, I would say. The depth and quality of the coverage has not. I am thinking now that the MSM has reporters on site, we'll start to get more accuracy in the reporting. That is one of the reasons in my previous post I highlighted the work of people like Eduardo and his blog Barrio Flores. He is in Bolivia and is blogging from there about his experiences. Blogging might not be very journalistic, but it is an important source of information.

If you want to meet these people click here, fotos

A Window Into a Political Campaign

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Thanks to the always trustworhty fellow blogger Eduardo from Barrio Flores, who is right now in Bolivia taking part in a congressional electoral campaign, we can take a look into that campaigning machinery.

Eduardo was asked by a friend of the family who is running for a congressional direct mandate seat (uninominal), to come along and help out in the campaign. So he took the opportunity and is now posting his experiences as he lives them. Blogging at its best, I would call it!

As he recalls:
Little did I know that I would have full access to the inner workings of a modest, yet intense campaign. For the past two days, I have accompanied the team during campaign stops in poor urbanizaciones and in rural villages high up in the mountains over the course of 12 hour days.

His insights are priceless for people interested in the topic, like us. Specially having the opportunity to look at the organizational aspects:

There are staff members who are responsible for securing media interviews. The political advisors often recommend or decline some of the interview requests because of the common-knowledge that a particular journalist is biased or affiliated with another political party and is out for blood. Other staff members are also in charge of looking for endorsements from various organizations. As a result, they always lobby that their event is more important and many events get double-booked. In the end, the candidate has the final call as to which one gets bumped.

Or, the communication aspect:

Often the other car (we only have two different cars at our disposition) arrives ahead and assures the contact person that the candidate is on the way. The little white lie of “ya estamos llegando” (we are almost there) is used anywhere from the time that we are just leaving or to a time that we are on the road still a ways away. Cell phones are the lifeblood of a campaign. Communication between all the different staff members coordinating among themselves, with the candidate, with headquarters is easily facilitated by these commonly found gadgets. The only problem is when the cars travel to rural areas up the mountainside where cell phone signal is spotty at best. The night that I met the Presidential candidate, he was operating with two different cell phones, one in each pocket (both rang at the same time non-stop).

Eduardo's reports are definitely worht a visit, as we can look into these campaigns directly. Additionally, Eduardo is there in Bolivia and thus the info he posts is directly from the source.

Do pay him a visit!

December 08, 2005

Governance Crisis: The Bolivian Case

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I'd like to share with you all a link where you can find audio files of a conference held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC. The title of the conference was Bolivia's Crisis of Governance: What can be done? It was sponsored by USAID/Bolivia Mission and held at CSIS.

Here is the link.

As the name suggests, people came together to try to come up with answers on what to do with Bolivia's governance problem. That just shows to me, how worried Washington is by the imminent elections outcome.

As a matter of background, CSIS is a rather conservative but prominent think tank in Washington. I had the honor to work there for about a year with one of the fellows.

December 07, 2005

The Race Goes On

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It's going exactly the way I planned it at the Weblog Awards 2005. After telling all the people I know in the world (all 25 of them), I hang low, stay behind the leader until I surprise him or her with a last sprint to gain the lead. ;-)

I just need, as of now, little more than 200 votes, ehem! Easy.

Not, really! But, I have to say, it is exciting to be nominated. Just to be able to post that cool banner that reads "Weblog Awards 2005 Finalist". Even more exciting is to be on the race, albeit well behind.

I just keep on wondering, how does babalu do it? There must be tons of people visiting his site every day. Either that, or he has tons of friends hanging out in the internet and voting diligently every day.

As you can see, I am taking advantage that Bolivia is a bit calm as of late.

December 05, 2005

The Weblog Awards 2005

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I just learned that MABB was nominated for the 2005 Weblog Awards and was picked finalist in the international category under the best Latino, Caribbean, or South American blog.
The voting starts today, December 5 and ends December 15. If you have a minute, please vote. Thanks!

December 04, 2005

Two Issues Dominating the Campaign Trail

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After almost a week of vacation, I return to the blogsphere to continue bringing information about Bolivia. How was my vacation you ask? It was very nice, like any vacation. I indulged in Toulousane delicacies like hot chocolate, fresh baked pastries, delicious regional kitchen and of course, cheese and wine. At the same time, I walked around the city, visiting the most interesting places for someone who is interested in medieval history as I am. Well, but now, back to work.

We are exactly 15 days before the elections. According to my oppinion, there are currently two main issues affecting the campaign season. One is the issue Quiroga has been pushing for, respect of the majority vote. The other issue popped up rather sudden and concerns the eternal shadow of a violent overthrow of the government.

Concerning the respect to the majority vote, there has not been much progress. Jorge Quiroga (Podemos) has been trying to make it an issue. He's been asking Evo Morales (MAS) to sign a pact whereby they would promise to respect the majority vote in Congress. Morales has refused signing such agreement and has refuted Quiroga's challenges by saying he does not make agreements with a "neoliberal". Morales is the front runner in the polls and enjoys a two to three percentage lead over Quiroga.

The second issue, related to the first one, has stirred concern from many in the country. The disturbance came from the comments one MAS senator, Roman Loayza, made. Loayza announced a "social mobilization" if Morales did not get elected president. He went as far as to suggest there were plans to bring Morales to power by force. Loayza mentioned there were contacts already with the military and the police forces. Loayza ended his comments by saying Morales would be president "even if force is necessary". These worrying comments come on the back of other troubling comments made by the vice-president candidate of MAS and former guerrilla member, Alvaro Garcia Linera. In his comments, Garcia Linera challenged the people gathered there to defend their vote with "mobilizations". To top it all off, none of these comments prompted a decisive and categotic no by the presidential candidate, Evo Morales. He brushed Loayza's comments as personal and lost views . He also issued a statement where he does say that his party is commited to the democratic institutions. But that wasn't enough to reassure the other candidates. Morales continues to assert that the "bolivian people" will not accept other president than the MAS candidate.

For its part, the military has recently, once again, expressed its respect for the democratic institutions and its commitment to defend it. It is funny that the Bolivian military has repeatedly had to publically reassure the people and the government their support for democracy. I guess the past still hunts Bolivia.

It is certainly very worrying the attitude Morales and his party are taking towards these elections. I have not seen Morales absolutely discarding any violent overthrow of the government. That is what is most worrying to me. He says he is committed to democracy, yet he continues to assert that the people will not accept other president than him. Furthermore, in view of the inminent rift between the Congress and a possible Morales government (it is becoming incresingly clear), many MAS senators have been exprssing Morales' intentions to govern the country by decree. That means, he would issue law without consulting the Congress. Additionally, he would heavily rely on demonstrations or mobilizations as he calls them. This would mean that Congress would be pressured to act by street demonstrations. Currently, there are too many cries of war and insurrection if Morales doesn't win. It is to say the least, unsettling.

November 26, 2005

Short Brake

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Starting Sunday, I will take a short brake from Blogging. I will be in Toulouse for about a week. No work, just relaxing.

I will resume posting as soon as I get back.

See you in a week. :-)

Btw, that in the picture is the famous Bolivian beer, Pacena. Thanks to jenifrog's flickr stream.

November 25, 2005

The Chavez Connection

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As recent as two days ago, the Chavez government machinery has managed to include itself in the electoral debate in Bolivia. Chavez has been very keen on remaining a pivotal issue, not just in Bolivia, but in all Latin America. It seems that when there is no relevant chance to make the newspapers, he chooses to pick fights such as the one he recently picked with Vicente Fox.

Chavez's plans include Bolivia. Rather shall I say, Bolivia's natural gas reserves are the important piece in his plans. One part of those plans is to build a pipeline from Venezuela to Argentina, to make sure Kirchner has enough energy. For that, Kirchner is showing his greatfulness!

A commentary from El Pais says: "So gaudy is the decor with which the inventor of a new and undefined Bolivarian revolution surrounds himself, that it is hard to see what middle-term advantages, other than oil favors, Buenos Aires can obtain from this association with Caracas. Luiz Inácio da Silva, who came to the presidency of Brazil with better left-wing credentials than Néstor Kirchner, is treating the embryonic alliance with great caution, smiling toward Bush every time he has his photo taken with Hugo Chávez."

Chavez's real plans are to use the Bolivian natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America after Venezuela's, to expand its geopolitical influence. Chavez can effectively, for the moment, rely on the US$60 a barrel oil prices to push for his agenda in Latin America. Additionally, Chavez is counting on the upcoming and pretty busy electoral schedule in Latin America. According to a report from the Herald, at least 11 elections in the region are to be carried out between end 2005 and 2006.

(graph from The Economist)Chavez is expecting that the majority of these elections go his way. That way he would consolidate his influence if the governments turn out to the left, as the Latin American trend has been in recent times.

If these were the results, the Bolivarian Republic would have won an important battle and would be a step closer to realization. At least, that is how I would tend to see it.

November 24, 2005

Corruption Measured

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Here is a hot button for me, corruption. This time there was a very interesting report of a courruption study publshed by La Razon.



The report says that the level of bribes in Bolivia is roughly equal to half the budget deficit, 25% of government investment, 5% of exports, and about half of what Bolivia owes to the IMF. The study measures the cost of corruption to Bolivian households. Furthermore, the average Bolivian spent around Bs$400 (US$50) a year.

However, what the report forgets to mention is that the cost to Bolivian households represented by these quoted amounts, represent at the same time income for some of the same households and by virtue of taxes, is also income for the government. How's that!

November 22, 2005

Fresh Polls

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Here is a table, I hope you like. Fresh polls indicating a lead by Evo Morales, but being very closely followed by Jorge Quiroga. From this picture, one can see that Samuel is not that irrelevant. The table brakes the polls by department.

The source is the television network PAT and the company conducting the study is Grupos Mori. I found the data in the Bolivia.com site, but created the table myself.

In the blank-don't know-other column you can include the undecided and the supporters for other candidates, such as MNR's Michiaki Nagatani.

National Poll by Red PAT

National Results


Evo Morales

Jorge Quiroga

Samuel Doria

Blank-Don’t Know-Other


33%

27%

12%


Per Department

La Paz

51%

18%

9%


Oruro

40%

19%

8%

23%

Potosi

30%

28%

8%

16%

Cochabamba

40%

24%

7%

7%

Sucre

19%

34%

15%


Tarija

10%

52%

14%

9%

Santa Cruz

16%

33%

21%

12%

Beni

11%

36%

9%

27%

Pando

19%

45%

15%

10%

What is interesting to note when looking at Morales' numbers is that they decrease geographically from West to East. Strongholds are La Paz, Oruro, Potosi and Cochabamba, but still in the double digits in the rest of the departments. Quiroga's numbers reveal two weaknesess. First, Cochabamba, his hometown, shows pretty weak numbers for him compared to Morales' numbers. Second, I would have expected Quiroga to do better in Santa Cruz. I think, Doria is taking votes away from Quiroga. Strongest supports are Tarija and Pando. Doria hasn't been able to capture more votes. He's been polling in the same range consistently. His best numbers and stongholds are Santa Cruz, Sucre, Pando and Tarija.

One interesting feature from this table is that there seems to be a good chunk of votes up for grabs in Beni and Oruro. Not sure why. Anyone?

Also, according to the report, the way things are looking, Podemos is set to get 15 senators, MAS will get 9, UN will get 2 and MNR will get 1. Assuming Podemos, UN and MNR make up a government alliance, that would give 18 senators for the government and 9 for the opposition.

I'd like to see the reaction of MAS if the elections don't come out the way they think they will.

Update: I just wanted to place the same poll but from different medium (La Razon). We got the like thanks to Alvaro.

We can compare and perhaps see what difference does it make the medium of publication.



Bolivia, Chile and the Sea: The Ever Lasting Cycle

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There is a very discernable pattern to observe when it comes to the issue of sea access for Bolivia. For starters, I am sure you know that Bolivia lost its sea shores in the 1879 Pacific War. This war confronted Bolivia and Chile, where in the end, Chile gained not just Bolivian territory but Peruvian as well. More recently, the two countries have not had official diplomatic relations since the seventies. Throughout this time, Chile and Bolivia have, nevertheless, sought to look for a solution. This is the pattern I am talking about.

It starts with some sort of conflict arising. First, the media starts speaking of meetings between high official from both governments. Then both governments start making statements. On the Bolivian side, this last time, the media started quoting high Chilean officials as saying that their government would meet with the Bolivian government to speak about the issue, and later about ceding sea access.

Then Peru stick its nose in the middle and usually say or does something that scares Chile. More negotiations follow and then the traditional "hug" happens (between Bolivia and Chile). And last comes the hammer: Chile categorically discards giving Bolivia any access to the sea.

How do you like that?

(it sould be taken with a bit of humor :-))

The links reflect this month's Bolivian activity sparked by the controversial law passed by the Peruvian Congress. Sorry, it is all in Spanish.

November 19, 2005

Bolivian Elections: The Inevitable Outcome

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As I have been saying since many months now (no prediction, no foretelling, no divination, just plain observation) the Bolivian elections are on track and headed toward its inevitable outcome. The outcome will be that Jorge Quiroga and Evo Morales will face-off in Congress, as the Constitution clearly states. It will be there where the new president of Bolivia will be elected.

So, as one could expect and as the elections aproach on December 18, the topic of the exchange between the candidates is slowly changing to include speculations about who will ally with who. The press and many analysts speculated that an alliance between Jorge Quiroga and Samuel Doria would be natural. The most important aspect supporting this speculation is that both of them are pretty much in the same area of the political spectrum. Whereas, an alliance between Evo Morales and Samuel Doria would not be easy to put together and much less would be a MAS-Podemos alliance. In this context, Doria has become a very important player. Everyone is looking for a signal showing with which political party will UN go to government to.

In recent times, though, I have observed Samuel Doria leaning more towards the left rather than the right. For example, Samuel has been talking about nationalizing Bolivia's natural resources and the redistribution of land. These outbursts of Samuel, I attributed them to his party's efforts to attract more votes. However, these comments opened the, small but much real possibility, of Samuel forming an alliance with Evo, thus enabling Evo to become president. It is not crazy to consider an outcome like this. I think it would do wonders for Samuel's party in terms of support and legitimacy. But, he must have different poll numbers than me because, recently he came out and rules an alliance with Evo Morales right out. He said "I will not make any deal with Evo".

Today, Samuel and his vice-president, Carlos Dabdoub, came out again and made more of these absolute statements, which I think they will have to "eat" after December 18. The press quoted Dabdoub as saying "UN will not vote neither for Podemos nor for MAS in case it comes out third". Samuel is convinced, at least for now, that Quiroga and Morales are polarizing the country and that UN will be government. In his oppinion this polarization is not good for Bolivia. So naturally, he offers an alternative.

In essence, the refusal of Samuel Doria not to commit to an alliance with any of the leading parties could potentially result in a new Congressional crisis because it would be impossible to elect a new president. This deadlock would be desastrous for the country. However, it is too early to speak of crisis or deadlock. I am assuming that Samuel is being a good democrat and he is fighting for every single vote he can get out there. His seemingly inflexible position might be a strategy to gain voters. After all, as candidate, one must project decisiveness and conviction on one's candidacy. He must think, these comments are helping him gain votes. Deep down, Doria thinks (has to think) he has a chance at the presidency. Nonetheless, I would expect him to eat his words and pick a side after the elections. One thing is clear, he will come out being the most important person in the aftermath of the elections.

Now, one more speculation. Let's not count Samuel out of the presidency just yet. What happens if there is really a deadlock in Congress?, and MAS and Podemos, both need Samuel to make a majority. Assuming Samuel hangs on to his pants long enough, if there is no consensus in Congress on whether Evo or Tuto should be the next president, a different solution could involve Samuel as president as consensus candidate. I don't remember well, but I think this has happened when Paz Zamora became president. Now, for that to happen many things have to come together. One, MAS and Podemos cannot make a grand alliance (more or less proven). Two, there has to be a deadlock in Congress. Three, UN has to hold on and not budge in. Four, pressure has to be tremendous on Congress (time must run out). Five, UN's votes have to be a significant number. Six, MAS and Podemos have to ceede their polarizing positions and agree for a neutral one. What I am saying is, if the conditions are right and Samuel plays his cards well, he could end up sitting in the presidency and not Evo or Tuto.

While it is almost certain that Quiroga and Morales will face-off in Congress to see who gets the presidency, the decision is practically in Doria's hands. Samuel Doria will be the "president maker". He's unique position gives him the power to choose the next president of Bolivia. Unless, of course, he decides to make himself president. Then, all bets are off. But, before any of the above happens, we have to get to December 18 and see the Bolivian people go to vote. These elections have to be clean and legitimated. After that happens, we can start speculating all we want about what alliance will be formed.

November 17, 2005

The First Bolivian Bloggers "Summit"

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Why not? It was comming. It was only a matter of time until the first Bolivian bloggers meeting was going to happen. Well, it's here and it's called:


Yes, Pacenas, Fricachos and Blogs is an initiative of two, by now old time, Bolivian bloggers, Carlos Quintanilla of El Quintacho y su rincon and Rolando Lopez author of Rocko. These two currently live in La Paz and thought of giving birth to perhaps something that could turn into a yearly event, the way it is already in other countries.

The plan is tentative and seeks to meet, somewhere in La Paz, the last Saturday of November. I guess more details will come later. The topics will of course be blogging and the sharing of ideas about it. As an additional topic the bloggers will discuss the creation of cultural campaigns, such as the Liberation of Books campaign started by mundo al revez and of which Carlos also actively participated.

A brief explanation of the name for the meeting. Pacena is a pilsner beer brewed in Bolivia. It is one of the best tasting beers in Bolivia. Fricacho or Fricase comes from the french Fricasse and is a fricase of pork meat with potatoes and white giant corn. It is very spicey and could potentially bring people from the brain dead state.

So, we'll be looking out for the event and the report of how did it go and what was talked about. Don't forget to take lots of pictures guys!

November 16, 2005

Revolution Through Elections

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Alvaro Garcia Linera and Evo Morales Aima, vice- and president candidates for MAS in the December 18 general elections in Bolivia, are leading what seems to be a revolution through elections. A revolution, because they pretend to radically change the nature of the Bolivian state. And, so far it is being done with in the framework of democratic principles, like elections.

There are four main objectives in the plans of MAS to re-make Bolivia. The first objective is to get to become government. So far, MAS is trying the democratic way. Morales and Garcia are participating in the general elections, where they have a good chance to win the popular vote. However, Morales and Garcia have been making very unsettling comments regarding their chances to win. Both, vice-president and president candidates seem to be using scare tactics to influence people to support them in the elections. They have been quoted calling their supporters (specially in El Alto and the aymara towns in El Altiplano where most of the demonstrators come from) to rise up to defend a MAS victory at the ballot boxes. Esentially, Garcia has called for an armed struggle to make sure MAS is government after the elections. Of course, later the comments are tamed by Garcia when asked about them by the press. But, the comments and the message is already given.

Since MAS is expecting a first place in the outcome, it is taking for granted that Morales and Garcia will become government. The threats are in case they come first place and through negotiation among the forces in Congress the second or third place winners are elected president. This situation is very common in Bolivian elections. In such case, one can expect trouble coming from MAS supporters.

The second objective, once MAS is in government, will be to re-invent a new country by convening to a Consituent Assembly as soon as possible. This assembly will become the single most important issue after the elections. I expect also, it will become the instrument of discord among the different regions in Bolivia. Simply because the idea of a nation state is so different among them. The widest differences are between the MAS and the Santa Cruz civics.

How will this new state will look like? are the third and fourth objectives. For one, MAS wants to detract completely from a free market economy or what they call a neo-liberal economy. So the basic law giving birth to the free market economy in Bolivia, the law number 21060 will for sure be scraped from the books. What kind of economy does MAS intends to place instead? I am not really sure. I have not seen any details on this topic. The fourth objective is the nationalization of the natural resources. I have also not seen details on this plan, but I have heard some comments. It seems that MAS would nationalize the resources but would stop short of confiscating private property from the big companies. It seems that MAS does realize it cannot isolate itself as a country. But, one thing I am sure, MAS is thinking of its frienship with Chavez and his petrodollars to give him an initial push. Also, MAS must be thinking about China becoming a more important player, since China wants to.

Whether or not MAS winns the elections, I would be willing to bet that it will make a serious attempt to become government. That is, even using force. If I were in Bolivia, I would be taking Morales and Garcia at their word. Since, as we have seen, these two individuals have a proven record of going at it by any means.

November 15, 2005

Latest Poll

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IPSOS Captura has published its latest poll numbers last Monday. In them, it reports that Evo Morales leads the polls with 30.7 percent support and Jorge Quiroga closely follows with 28.7 percent. Businessman Samuel Doria Medina lags with 13.9 percent. These results show a seemingly neck-to-neck race between Evo Morales and Jorge Quiroga.

However, according to La Razon, the real winner is Jorge Quiroga. The IPSOS report shows that Quiroga has the lead in six of the nine deprtments, as follows: Quiroga leads in Beni with 37.5 percent vs. 9.4 percent for Morales; in Chuquisaca (Sucre) Quiroga scores 37.5 pecent, that would be 10.8 percentage points more than Morales; in Pando, Quiroga has 60.7 percent of the vote, while Morales has 13.4 percent; in Potosi, Quiroga again scores 36.3 percent, which represents 11.3 points more than Morales; in Santa Cruz, Quiroga has a lead where he has 33.8 percent, leading MAS with 20 percentage points and UN by 7.3; in Pando, Quiroga has a commanding lead of 51.6 percent, which represent 37.5 percentage points over Morales.

Morales, in turn, leads Quiroga in La Paz by 29.2 percentage points; in Cochabamba with 33 percent and Oruro with 36.5 percent.

All this means that Evo Morales has a lead in the national polls, but Jorge Quiroga has the real chances of becoming the next president of Bolivia. According to the La Razon article, Quiroga's leads in the particular departments will give him a majority in the upper chamber, the Senate. The Senate has 27 members, three per department. If Quiroga carries six of those, then he ends up with 18 Senators. That would represent a majority in the 27 member chamber. The calculations are not that easy in the lower chamber due to the proportional representation rules.

Sources: AP, La Razon, El Deber, Los Tiempos.

Addition1: See, this is what's good about the blogsphere. One can get a discussion going, even if it is not on the same place. Here is another perspective by boz on the polls released by IPSOS. It is a must read!

Addition2: Ciao! has thrown his insighful oppinion on the topic. Read it here.

November 13, 2005

Samuel: I Will Not Make Any Deal With Evo

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People who know the new president of Bolivia will be elected in Congress are constantly observing signs showing the possible alliances to emerge after the elections. I, for one, haven't seen any, until now.

This interview published in La Razón gives a clear sign that Samuel Doria Medina of UN has no intention of joining Evo in a new government.

Samuel directs most of his criticism towards Tuto quiroga. He argues that Tuto has never and will never be in the center-left. He says that Tuto's words are just words. One of the questions is whether he will form an alliance with Evo to govern. Samuel answers that is a dirty trick from Tuto who is spreading that lie to scare udecided voters. Samuel believes he will be government and clearly discards an alliance with Evo and MAS to form a government. His position towards Evo is to "block the blocker". That is, to block Evo Morales from getting to the presidency in the elections with the vote.

In my opinion these might be words Samuel might have to eat once the elections are over. Realistically looking at UN's position, the only way this party would get to government is in alliance with one of the aforementioned parties, Podemos or MAS. And, if he is so quick to write off a possible alliance with MAS, will he then consider an alliance with Tuto? That is the pressing question.

In recent times, I have seen Samuel getting closer and closer to MAS, rather than Podemos. For once, he is advocating the nationalization of the natural resources. A thing that Tuto is not. At least, not in the same sense as Evo. But, somehow Samuel's rethoric does not make sense. He comes from a business background, he owns one of the biggest industries in Bolivia. He has to be business friendly. It is his livelihood. He says he is for the small entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs only trhive in a business friendly environment. There are many questions still that Samuel has to make clear. His project is not really clear and does not offer many insights on the details.

But, the relevant question still is with whom will Samuel find more things in common? Who'll be his preference for an alliance? He is an important man.

Musical Meme

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Once every so often one of these comes around. This time is a meme about music, elegantly passed on by Mariana Ruiz, from Marea y Cielo. The idea is simple. Just have to list, alphabetically, pieces of music I like. What I'll do is to list what I am currently listening.

However, many of you who visit MABB for a longer time would know that I used to highlight Bolivian blogs. I haven't done this for some time. Now, I want to take this opportunity to suggest a visit to Mariana's blog. Marea y Cielo is an interesting addition to the Bolivian blogsphere. Well, it is an excellent addition to the literary kind. Those visitors who would want to experience a bit of poetry and literature coming directly from Bolivia will do well in visiting Mariana. Her stories are thought provoking and well written. And if that were not enough, she also has some skill with the camera. On her flickr account she posted some interesting photographs where she shows here ability to play with shadows and light.

Since I am already doing this let me suggest other blogs that I read as well: De Reojo (Pablo Mendieta); Rocko; Su Vida; and if you want to really get into the Bolivian blogsphere there is now a blog dedicaded to provide links to all these blogs, Blogs de Bolivia.

Naturally, the majority of these blogs are written in Spanish. But, for those English speaking visitors who are learning Spanish or already speak Spanish, a visit to this blog is well worth the time. You don't only practice your reading and learn more vocabulary, but you also get a glimpse into the Bolivian culture.

Here we go:

a: Aerosmith
a: Astor Piazzola
c: Creedence Clearwater Revival
d: Dean Martin
e: Evanescence
f: Frank Sinatra
g: Good Charlotte
l: La Oreja de Van Gogh
l: Luis Miguel
j: Juan D'Arienzo
m: Mellencamp, John
n: Nickelback
r: Roberto Goyeneche
r: Ricardo Arjona
t: Tom Jones
s: Sevillanas
u: U2
v: Vives, Carlos

This is harder than I thought! Let's see, who to pass it on? Let me try Alvaro from Off Topic; Nick from Open Veins; and Rocko. Of course, this is entirely optional. There is no obligation to follow. Have fun!

November 10, 2005

MAS and Podemos: Their Proposals

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Here is a rough translation of an article including the interviews La Razon made to the two vice-president candidates from MAS and Podemos. It sheds some more light on what'll it mean if Evo or Tuto become the next president of Bolivia.

On natural gas exports to Chile

MAS says it plans to concentrate on regional markets. That is, selling natural gas reserves to Paraguay and Uruguay and expanding sales to Argentina and Brazil. Also, MAS will continue with the policy of "gas for sea access" when dealing with Chile. That means, only when Bolivia has a sovereign access to the sea through its former territory will the government sell natural gas to Chile and become part of a regional energy integration strategy.

Podemos says it will also follow the "gas for sea access" policy against Chile. If there is no sovereign sea access for Bolivia, a Podemos government will not talk of diplomatic relations with Chile.

The Coca leaf issue

MAS proposes no free cultivation of Coca. It wants to make a study of how much Coca is needed to supply internal traditional use. That study will determine how many hectars will be allowed to be cultivated. At the same time they plan to engage in a crop substitution strategy to deal with the other farmers. MAS also wants to push for the legalization of the Coca leaf worldwide.

Podemos will basically continue with the current policy of 12 thousand hectars allowed to be legally cultivated.

The Blockades issue

The blockades which are the source of instability are the result of social dissatisfaction. MAS intends to deal with this problem by attending to the demands. They plan to make sure there is equality on the distribution of resources, equality between peoples and cultures and employment generation. Alvaro Garcia adds three issues MAS will carefully observe: a new economic model, inclusion of the indigenous population in the decision-making process and deepening of the decentralization process.

Podemos plans to penalize certain actions which interfere in the liberties and rights of the citizens. Additonally, they also propose attention to the demands, a new economic model focused on poverty alleviation and to increase citizen inclusion.

The regional issue

MAS will make it a priority to attend and include all the demands of all the regions and all the social and civic movements.

Podemos, through a two year exercize of conversations with people from all regions, developed a government plan which includes all the most important demands.

(neither party states what those demands are)

The territory or land issue

MAS plans to work on land redistribution. It will confiscate unproductive land (big farms) and will redistribute it to the people who don't have any land. In a MAS government there is no place for huge farms nor for illegal settlements. MAS will continue with the INRA law (current law in charge of land redistribution) and will guarantee social and productive private property.

Podemos plans to also confiscate unproductive land according to the social and economic function of the agent. INRA also plays an important role in applying this policy.

USA or Venezuela

MAS guarantees absolute and total independence of decision making. Good relations with all nations, including USA.

Podemos also guarentees independence and good relations with all nations of the world. Additionally, Podemos would work to provide more support for expats.

The Goni process

MAS will work to bring Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to justice for the deaths during the October 2003 disturbances. A MAS government would carefully observe the work of the Judicial branch. MAS will also rely on the social movements to observe the Judicial branch.

Podemos plans not to intervene in the judicial process. In essence, it would leave the Judicial branch to carry its work without givernment interference.

The power distribution issue

MAS plans to fill its bureaucratic ranks through merit and tests. There will not be distribution of official posts based on politics. No clientilism.

Podemos proposes the second round elections or respect to the first majority to prevent the distribution of political posts at the time of alliances in parliament. This would prevent that alliances would redistribute embassies and ministries, among other posts. Internally, Podemos will tap into its alliance members to fill posts.

November 08, 2005

Evo y el Pibe

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You know that I like to share with you all not just my opinions and news about Bolivia, but also funny things I find in my roaming around the cyberworld. This time is a cartoon I found in La Razon. Trust me, it's very funny.


For those of you who don't know the background, here is a brief fill in and translation. In the world cup Mexico 1986, the quarter final game Argentina vs England, where Argentina won 2 to 1, Diego Armando "El Pibe" Maradona scored two goals for Argentina. One was the most amazing goal in the history of world Soccer. Maradona advances by himself around several defenders and the goalie and scores. The other goal, as Maradona admits, was scored with his hand as he jumped against Shilton (1,86 mts tall) and, with his hand, slaped the ball over the goalkeeper, without the referees noticing. This second goal has been since then known as "la mano de Dios" or the hand of God. Maradona has admited he intentionally used his hand and he did not regret it. Thanks to that goal, Argentina went on to win the cup. Mexico 86 was dubbed the Maradona show.

At the Anti-Summit of the Americas, this past weekend, Maradona met Evo Morales in the march against Bush. Maradona thanked Evo for supporting the Argentinean nation.

Now, in the cartoon, Diego Maradona asks Evo if he could teach him play the trumpet. If you read this post of mine, you know Evo used to play the trumpet. Evo then answers yes, if Maradona would teach Evo how to pull a "mano de Dios".

November 05, 2005

The Summit of the Americas and the Anti-Summit in Pictures

Thanks to the Yahoo photo stream we can follow the IV Summit of the Americas and the Anti-Summit of the Americas as they happen. The actions is taking place in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

President Bush listening to Hugo Chavez speak during the first meeting of the Summit of the Americas on Saturday, November 4, 2005. Perhaps he is wondering what went wrong.


Hugo Chavez speaking at the meeting on Saturday. Hours before that speech he attended the Anti-Summit of the Americas where he denounced Bush, his policies and his government. This guy is becoming a real problem for the Bush administration.


Diego Armando Maradona y Hugo Chavez in the Anti-Summit. Both uttered harsh criticism against Bush during their demonstration. Maradona has said he hates Bush and if he sees him he would rip his head off. This is a duo who for sure is giving Bush much to think about.


Completing the list of celebrities attending the Anti-Summit, Evo Morales showing his disapproval of President Bush. Barrio Flores has an interesting post on this too.


Here is a visual of how leftist Latin America is becoming. The photo shows the leftist presidents of the Americas. From left to right, Fidel Castro (Cuba), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Nestor Kirchner (Argentina), Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva (Brazil) and Tabare Vazquez (Uruguay). Many are working to add Evo Morales to this list.


President Bush's presence has sparked mass demonstrations (about 40,000 people on Saturday) and violence. People are demonstrating against the Free Trade policies the US government is trying to further. I ask myself, is this representative of what Latin Americans think about free trade?


The Bolivian president, oddly enough, is pictured like no other time, often at the side of President Bush. The usual place for the Bolivian President is besides Peru and on the back row. Is Bolivia gaining presence?


For sure Bush must be asking himself and his staff what is going wrong when it comes to Latin America. It seems that the US government's policies and the government itself is pushing LA towards the left. It is evident that Chavez is having an impact with the money he is getting from high oil prices.