April 30, 2005

Once Again, Trouble on the Horizon for Bolivia

MABB © ®

As I mentioned in other posts (here and here) troubles are coming Bolivia's way again. These are set to start up on May 2.

The reason is the same as last time. The nationalization of the natural gas resources. All this week there were news reports warning on the times approaching and, most importantly, communication between the social movements trying to coordinate the plan of action.

But, the straw that will brake the camel's back, will be today's decision by Congress to approve a new hydrocarbons law maintaining the 18/32 formula (18% royalties and 32% taxes) the government recommended. However, one significant change is that the 32% taxes are not tax deductible. This is the formula that the social movements and the MAS see as unacceptable. They will not accept nothing short of 50% royalties.

In addition, here are some more points approved in the new law:
  • The companies have 180 days to migrate to new contracts.

  • YPFB is refounded

  • Funds for YPFB will be taken from the Capitalization Fund (FCC), but Bonosol, will have to be still paid.

  • Payment of royalties and taxes are immediate.

  • The state will have to compensate the inhabitants for any lost territory to exploration or exploitation.

  • The government will have to consult the indigenous population living in the territory of interest, but this will not be binding.

  • wholesalers will be eliminated from the supply chain.

  • The unit price cannot be above 50% from the export price.

The question is if MAS will accept this new modification by the Senate or will it go ahead with plans. MAS and its allies, have already announced total war. Their argument is that neither Congress nor the government are working in favor of Bolivia. In fact, they are really working in favor of the oil companies.

There is of course, the possibility that the president will veto the law. To this, the presidents of the Senate and Deputies chamber have said that Congress is prepared to override the veto. An override needs 2/3 votes from Congress. If we take seriously some recent comments by Mr Mesa, we could come to the conclusion that he will veto the law. Of course, he really doesn't have the backing to do this. It would be a surprising move if he does.

In the end, everything will be in vain, if the social movements decide to go ahead with their plans. However, in my view, it would be pretty hard to make a case for more disturbances with this new law. As you can see, it only lacks the 50% royalties.

April 28, 2005

About Bolivian Blogs and Other Things

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I have added a few more blogs to the Bolivian Blogs list. And, since the list is getting longer and longer, that is an encouraging sign that blogging is taking off in Bolivia. I also think that it is time for me to, instead of listing any Bolivian blog, start being a little picky. So, from now on, I will tighten the requirements to enter the list.

The basic requirements will sitll be there:

Any blog written by a Bolivian who lives in Bolivia or anywhere else in the world.

Any blog written by a non-Bolivian who is living in Bolivia or writes mainly about Bolivia.

And the blog has to have regular posts, which can be articles, opinions, poems, music, etc. The main thing would be a visitor can read something interesting and decent.

So there you have it. If you know of new Blogs about Bolivia or authored by Bolivians, please let me know, so I can add it to the list.

I thank, many of you who have been telling me about new blogs.

Finally, I also would like say to anyone who wants to get this list for their own blog, to please go ahead and take it. It is compiled under CC licence, much like everything in this blog. BUT, please, please, give some credit where it's due. Mention where you got it. I have seen at least one site who took the list and nada, zip, not a mention of where he got it.


April 26, 2005

Will Bolivia be the next Ecuador?

MABB is a registered TM.

In the last few months we have seen a troubling trend of political deterioration in the Andean region. Specifically, we have to talk about the events in Bolivia earlier this year, and recent events in Ecuador. The events in Ecuador are particularly worrisome because they ended in a government change with unclear constitutional basis. The question now is whether what happened to Ecuador can happen in Bolivia.

I would argue that what happened in Ecuador does not necessarily have to happen in Bolivia. The reason being in Ecuador there was a general agreement that the Constitution was being violated by the government'’s actions and opposition political forces were looking for an excuse to remove Gutierrez from power.

What happened in Ecuador?

The dynamics which ended up removing Gutierrez from power in Ecuador started back in December 2004. Then, the government, in accordance with the members of its coalition (PRE and Prian), removed all the judges of the Ecuadorian Supreme Court and replaced them with its own supporters. This move was widely seen as a violation of the Constitution.

If we go back a little bit more in time, we can understand why this was done. The Gutierrez government came to power in 2002 with the backing of a leftist coalition. This coalition included Gutierrez’'s own party, PSP, the PSC, ID and PK. Soon thereafter, Gutierrez turned his back on this coalition and started seeking market friendly reforms and showing too much friendliness towards the American government. This move triggered retaliation from the now former coalition, which set in motion a power struggle between political forces within Congress to try to remove Gutierrez from power.

At one point in November 2003, the PSC, ID and Pachakutik, tried to impeach Mr. Gutierrez alleging he used state funds to promote his party’'s candidates and he illegally allowed US war ships intercept Ecuadorian boats allegedly transporting illegal immigrants on their way to the US. In order to defend himself, Mr. Gutierrez was forced to enter into a new alliance with the center-right-parties PRE and Alvaro Noboa'’s Prian. This situation changed the dynamics of power in Congress giving this new coalition a slight majority and narrowly saving Mr. Gutierrez from impeachment.

In exchange, Mr. Gutierrez was forced to support the change of the Supreme Court magistrates (at that moment under control of PSC) on December 2004. This, highly questionable move, was necessary because the Roldosista party (PRE) leader, Abdala Bucaram, had been wanting to come back to Ecuador. Bucaram fled to Panama in 1997 after he was ousted from office for “mental incapacity” and to evade corruption charges.

Since the Supreme Court justices were replaced, the Supreme Court was in an acute institutional crisis. In fact, the whole Ecuadorian Judicial branch was thrown into a crisis. This was mainly because the judicial branch is chronically politicized.

Exasperating the climate of crisis surrounding the Supreme Court, the president in turn, Gullermo Castro (PRE), in an expected move, annulled the process against Bucaram. This was seen, yet again, as another blunt violation of the Constitutional process. Additionally, as if it was not enough, Bucaram made a very immediate and public come back to Ecuador. In a speech to his supporters he stated he was back - stronger and crazier than ever.

In the subsequent weeks leading to April 20, 2005, the people of Quito went on the streets and called for Gutierrez'’s removal from office. On April 20, Gutierrez was removed by Congress in a special session held in an auditorium and Palacio was elected new president of Ecuador.

Will Mesa suffer the same end as Gutierrez?

Carlos Mesa, the Bolivian President, can perhaps learn a couple of things from Gutierrez’'s experience. One, and for sure the most important, is to never violate the Constitution. Any move that a president makes has to be within the framework of the law. Did Gutierrez not follow the law when his party and his coalition removed all the judges of the Supreme Court? I don’t know the answer to this question, because I am not a Constitutionalist. However, I do know that the Ecuadorian Congress did not have the power to do this. This power rested on the body charged with nominating the judges of the Supreme Court. Moreover, did Castro follow the law when he annulled the case against Abdala Bucaram? In this case I do know that Castro based his annulment on a technicality. The point here is Gutierrez let himself be undermined by making a series of decisions which were highly questionable (unconstitutional), to say the least.

Another thing Mesa could learn from Gutierrez’s experience is to never build a coalition and then turn its back on it. This open confrontation with opposition can be costly. Especially in a highly fragmented Congress, relations with the opposition must be in speaking terms. If the president openly defies his opposition, he closes the doors for consensus building and negotiation. This, often, means a freeze on the governments’ agenda. In the worst of cases could mean that the opposition openly seeks to remove the president from power.

Why is Bolivia a different case?

Bolivia is different from the case of Ecuador because of many reasons. First, president Mesa has not, up to now (that I know) violated the Constitution, nor anyone accuses him of a highly questionable move in benefit of his political cronies. Of course, he does not have a political party, per se, or much less a coalition. He does have, however, a group of parliamentarian supporters known as “patriotic alliance”. In contrast to Gutierrez, Mesa enjoys a high degree of approval (support) for his administration and thus legitimacy.

Second, the Judiciary branch of Bolivia is not completely politicized. In fact, it enjoys a fairly good degree of independence. Unlike the Ecuadorian Supreme Court, the Bolivian Supreme Court is seen as a legitimate institution. It might help that the Bolivian Supreme Court is geographically far away from the government (in Sucre).

Third, Mesa came to power in a comparatively more legitimate way than Gutierrez. While Gutierrez was elected to office in elections and Mesa was appointed by Congress, Gutierrez had taken part in the indigenous-military coup d'’etat which overthrew Mahuad from office. I would argue, his history as democratic leader was dubious. Additionally, he was a member of the military. A thing, which does not seat well in Latin America, for obvious reasons.

Finally, the political dynamics are just different. In Ecuador, there was a divide along political currents, Roldosistas and Prian against the popular left (Pachakutik, ID, PSC). Whereas in Bolivia, the divisions are more along social movements, while the traditional political parties struggle to maintain their representative role.

What kind of similarities can be observed between Bolivia and Ecuador?

Some similarities can definitely be observed. One, and the most obvious is, the seemingly weakness of the Executive office in both countries. In Ecuador, Gutierrez was weak because his majority was marginal and Congress did not want to act on his agenda. Often, he was left in the minority by the refusal of Prian to support Gutierrez’'s initiatives. While, in Bolivia, Mesa tried to go at it alone. He did not have a majority to rely on, or a minority for that matter. It was often, as well, that Mesa’'s initiatives were not supported or even blocked in Congress.

The previous point brings us to the next similarity. Both democratic systems rely on a multi-party system. Congress, in Ecuador and Bolivia, has a highly fragmented nature. Thus, as is already known, the need for consensus building and good relations between political factions, plus the ability of the government to build a strong coalition is important. In both countries, the governments had a poor relationship with Congress. This led to the almost permanent blockage of the government’'s agenda in Congress and the subsequent erosion of support from the electorate.

Another similarity could be argued, is the apparent rise of popular power. In the case of Bolivia, this can be observed distinctively. As we observed in the beginning of 2005, the popular rise against Mesa was (and still is) deeply rooted in social and civic organizations, rather than political parties. These social movements are shaping themselves to be an important political force within Bolivian politics. In contrast, I don’t see the same happening in Ecuador. What I see, and where the similarity ends, is on the participation of certain popular and indigenous groups, like the COINAE, which give a strong popular flavor to the disturbances in Ecuador. Nevertheless, one has to recognize that while, in this occasion, it did not seem like social movements had much participation in the removal of Gutierrez, there was some participation of popular, indigenous and civic groups in Ecuadorian politics.

Are there any implications for Bolivia?

As for any direct impact on Bolivian politics from the events in Ecuador, I think are minimal. Ecuador and Bolivia are two different countries with different circumstances. I don't think Bolivia will be the next Ecuador, but it is highly possible that President Mesa will again find himself under pressure, if this pressure from the social movements gets to a point where it is concerted.

Nonetheless, Bolivia should be attentively looking to what is going on in Ecuador. As my previous post says, the trouble in Bolivia is not over. In fact, according to the El Alto press, it’'ll start once again on May 2. This might be the last attempt before the elections in 2006 from the social movements to impose their demands on the government.

NOTE Sorry to those readers who are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. All throughout the text, one can see small squares where apostrophes should be or in many cases in addition to apostrophes. I have tried to remove them but was unsuccessful. They do not show up in the template. They are there because I used Word to write the article (saved it in .txt format). For those using Firefox, the squares should not appear. Sorry, once again. I appologize.

April 24, 2005

El Alto as the Center of Conflict: What Comes Ahead

MABB is a registered TM.

According to sources from El Alto, what comes ahead is more trouble. The social and civic organizations operating in El Alto have agreed to go ahead with more actions to pressure the central government to nationalize Bolivia's natural resources. Among other things they plan:

  • The Closing Parliament

  • The Occupation of the Gas and Oil fields and refineries

  • The Occupation of office buildings from the energy companies operating in Bolivia

  • Expropriate Sanchez de Lozada's property

  • Take all former presidents to court for transferring Bolivia's natural resources in favor of the energy companies

That is in addition to striking, blocking streets and marching.

All this has been agreed on the April 16 Social Movements Summit where civic and social organizations from eight departments met to coordinate a common policy to, what they say, recover the expropriated resources. This summit was held in the campus of the Autonomic and Public University of El Alto.

It was also agreed the beginning of these pressure tactics was going to begin on May 2, 2005 by the more than 500 El Alto organizations. One day after Worker's Day.

What this spells is more trouble for the government. We might actually see Mesa leaving earlier than we thought so.

As these announcements are routine for organizations like FEFUVE-El Alto, to prepare the field of conflict, one thing is for sure, trouble is not over.

April 21, 2005

How About Ecuador

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How about Ecuador. And you thought Bolivia was chaotic. In a matter of days the thing got really hot.

The result is that Ecuador has now a new president, Mr. Palacio, who was elected in the midst of chaos. The Ecuadorian Congress, apparently, met in an auditorium in the outskirts of Quito. There is when the opposition (PSC, ID and Pachakutik) together with independents ousted the president of Congress, ousted Gutierrez and elected his vice-president as new President of Ecuador (the 11th since 1996). How about that.

The most interesting thing is that the reason why everything turned black, all of the sudden, Abdala Bucaram, leader of PRE and ousted president for reasons of "mental incapacity", returned to exile. He had recently returned to Ecuador after the president of the Supreme Court, Mr. Castro (member of PRE), annulled the criminal charges of corruption and inaptitude brought against him by prosecutors. In a rally in Guayaquil called by supporters he said "I come back stronger and crazier that ever".

Now, who knows what will happen in Ecuador. There might be new elections or yet another Constituent Assembly. In the mean time you can check publius pundit for excellent coverage on Ecuador and its troubles.

April 20, 2005

Where in the.....is MABB?

MABB is a registered TM.

Not that everybody is wondering where did MABB go? I have just been slammed with work the last month or so. I don't know what happened. I did not even see it coming.

Really, this year has started with an unusual load of work. But, March and April have been a total overload.

What happened you ask? Well, I am doing some work for a bank here where I live (Hamburg), which is taking the bulk of my time. On the side, I am working on the construction of a database on Latin America. At the same time I also have some work in the Institute for Ibero American Studies (IIK). There is the link if you are interested. On the side I teach English and do some editing work. That's aside from taking some good chunk of my free time for my blog.

However, I haven't even had time to work on my blog over the weekends. Last weekend, I spontaneously (and I mean a decision of one to two days) decided to go meet my sister in Paris. Now, doesn't that sound really cool.

My wife and I had a really nice time. We met my sister and her friend. We stayed at their apartment where they were staying. I tell you. There is no better way to spend your weekend but in Paris. One thing though, the bus ride, which almost takes 11 hours, was really not fun. We thought by going over night it'd be better. Well, it wasn't. I am still feeling the effects of those two nights of sleeplessness.

So you see, time is getting short. There is just too much to do. I am just lucky that things are somewhat quiet in Bolivia. Although, the same cannot be said for Ecuador.

That is just as a matter of info. All should quiet down in the next week or so.

April 19, 2005

On Benedict XVI

MABB is a registered TM.

Well, it looks like we have a new Pope. Our, that is for Catholics, new Pope will be Benedict XVI. The German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who chose the name of Benedict XVI was chosen by the conclave to be the next leader of the Catholic Church.

According to various press releases and at least one book, I read, Ratzinger is the conservative of the conservatives within the church. That is something that does not worry me too much, because what Ratzinger would have to say, would have very little effect on my secular life. Fortunately, he won't have much influence on governments where the separation of church and state is important.

Nevertheless, I have an opinion on the conclave's choice itself. There were 115 electors. They had the opportunity of making history and perhaps, in the process, gain more believers, had they chosen a cardinal from one of the numerous developing nations represented within.

As is to be expected, I would have liked to see a first Latin American Pope. That would mark for me an age of change in the church, which would be unprecedented. But, above all, I ask myself, why choose a German Cardinal? I hope it is not because he was the oldest among the serious candidates so he would not stay in the chair long and because he was so conservative, which would mean that traditional values were going to be strengthened and the church would pursue a hard line on its believers.

I have to say, I am not happy. I think a Pope from outside Europe should have been given priority. But, that's just my opinion, right?

April 15, 2005

Bolivia Images

You know, every time I look at photos of Bolivia, be it streets, landscapes or faces, I wonder amazed at the beauty. Yeah, granted that I might be biased (just might be), but, you have to admit, there is some pretty beautiful nature in that country.

That is why I like to share images of Bolivia. Of course, not all of the images you have seen in this blog over the time I have been online are mine. Some of the most amazing photos are, in fact, not mine.

Every once in a while, I make it a point to share some of these images with you all. Also, know that every image I use has the permision of the author. Well, almost every one. Some authors cannot be reached by email anymore. The majority of the following images I have taken, with permision, from the blog Mi Bolivia. Please pay him a visit, he's got more. Thanks to Gonzalo for letting me use them.

April 12, 2005

It Would Be a Real Five Across the Eyes for Bolivia

MABB is a registered TM.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is locked in a dead heat elections. The two candidates for Secretary General, Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Luis Ernesto Derbez, and Chile's Interior Minister, José Miguel Insulza, are tied after five rounds. This is turning to be a once in a blue moon elections.

According to news reports, elections for Secretary General in the OAS usually are an easy affair. The member countries choose their candidate well in advance, after negotiations. However, this year has been very different.

The 35 members of the organization are showing signs of political divisions. Part of those divisions are the unresolved issues in the southern hemisphere. One of those is the Bolivian-Chilean sea issue. This is something that Bolivia is not letting go. The Mesa government has repeatedly raised the issue of sea access for Bolivia in international forums like the UN and the OAS, itself. The Chilean government has, at the same time, repeatedly taken the issue off the negotiating table.

Bolivia has expressed its support for Derbez, adding that it could never support the Chilean candidate because of the deep differences between Bolivia and Chile and Bolivia's dignity.

Now, I've read some reports speculating on the likeness of Insulza becoming the favorite candidate. Apparently, the Chilean government is doing everything it can to achieve this goal. It's even offering some incentives to the members of the Caribbean community so they vote for Insulza.

Rumors aside, in the case that Insulza gets elected new Secretary General of the OAS, Bolivia can "really" forget bringing up the issue of sea access in a forum of the OAS. For obvious reasons. That would be like a really loud five across the eyes. It might even be that the issue is difficult to raise in any other international forum. Well, I guess, Bolivia will just have to seat it out.

One thing that bothers me is that Insulza is being supported by Hugo Chavez. That, I bet, is making the US government nervous. Maybe Mr. Bush should send Mr. Rumsfeld to give them "loco" latinos a talk and put them in line.

April 09, 2005

Bolivia in Svensk

MABB is a registered TM.

Ever wondered if there are other Bolivians roaming around the world? or perhaps just other Bolivians who decided to leave the country and go to live to, oh, I don't know, Sweeden perhaps?

Well, here you have them. The Cultural Center Bolivia in Norrkoping, Sweeden. Apparently, these Bolivians are very active in their community. They do a good job in showing-off Bolivian culture in Scandinavia.

While I'm at it. Let me direct you once again to Open Veins. Nick has the most amazing photos from his last trip to Yungas and the Bolivian cordillera. Check this out!

This is a beautiful view of Sorata. Click on the image to go to se more photos.

The Regionalization of Politics

MABB is a registered TM.

While president Mesa is traveling, first to the Pope's funeral and then to Japan for a meeting with the governors of the Inter American Development Bank, the president of the Senate, Hormando Vaca Diez, is the interim president.

According to press reports, the Congress is pressing on with work and thus has passed the new law authorizing and regulating the Prefect elections.

The new legislation sets the date of the election for August 12, 2005. This date is set having into account how much time the National Electoral Court needs to get ready.

This is good in the sense that the agenda set as part of the solution to the social disturbances is making progress. Of course, there are some groups happier than others. In this case, the ones who are pleased are the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz. So much so, that they were present at the promulgation of the law.

Consequently, and in line with the decentralization process started in the 1990s, there is a visible movement towards the regionalization of politics. Currently, the traditional political parties (MNR, MIR, NFR, UCS, ADN) have started to look for suitable candidates, in each region rather than supporters. This move comes on the back of a marked decline in popular support, highlighted in the results of last December 2004 municipal elections.

Moreover, the traditional political parties have to compete with other political organizations since the passing of the Law of Citizen Groups and Indigenous Peoples in July 2004. Thanks to this law, local citizen groups and indigenous organizations can run in local elections. This was one of the major reasons the traditional parties have lost so much support at the local level.

However, the political parties are responding in accordance and seeking to regionalize themselves in response to the regionalization of politics. This is a seemingly positive development, if the regionalization translates into these parties being more responsible to local needs. In theory, they would incorporate local needs into their national agendas, while at the same time, at the local level, the representative would carry the national agenda and adapt it to local needs.

It can also result in the local concentration of power and the creation of clientilist relationships which are not responsive to local needs. Of course, one has to admit that in the Bolivian decentralization system there is a mechanism which would ideally prevent this. In municipalities, the government is answerable not only to the people but to the Comite de Vigilancia (Watch Committee). This committee is composed by citizens who are members of local civic groups. Additionally, the committee has the power to stop the government's funding. And, in the most remote parts in the Altiplano, some communities have been using what they call "communal law" to keep their governments in line. (the issue of communal law is not sanctioned by the central government, it's illegal)

Often though, the reality is different. The local government is dependent on and loyal to the central office of the particular party. Thus, in effect, centralizing the system once again. This may happen if the local government and the Watch Committee are supporters of the same party. For example, an order could come from the leader of the party instructing the local government and the local Watch Committee to block a highway. Since the local government and the Watch Committee are supporters of the same party and since both benefit from this relationship, they take the orders without questioning. Just for the sake of argumentation, we can say that the benefit is pecuniary.

In many ways, this is how parties like the Movement Towards Socialism or organizations like the FEJUVE-El Alto function. The power is centralized and when the actions are coordinated, the result is a devastating blow to the Bolivian system.

April 06, 2005

Globetrotters Passing Through Bolivia

MABB is a registered TM.

In the last few weeks I've been reading a lot of blogs from people who choose to just put their lives on hold at home and travel the world. I guess there is a part of me (I guess of everyone) that would like to do something like that. To be brave, drop everything you're doing, pack up all your belongings and start down the road.

It started by reading Travelhead. This guy has done IT! If you will. He had his own company (which surely help a lot to realize this dream), he had a house, he had three cars and shall we say, he was as settled as anyone would be. Suddenly, he finds himself stuck in the middle of rush-hour in one of the most congested highways in the US, the beltway or RT 495 in Washington, DC. Oh, I know this road all too well. That is one of the reasons I find myself living in Germany too. But, that's besides the point. But Travelhead says:

Sitting in traffic on 495, the Washington DC beltway. At the point where my car is sitting at a total standstill it is 5 lanes wide, and those are just the lanes headed in my direction. I look at the 2 lanes to my right, and the 2 lanes to my left, and realize that I don't belong here. I look at these people and it scares me to know that although I'm not really moving, I am racing towards being right where they are. This continual cycle of: buy, get debt, work, pay, buy, get debt, work, pay. Does anyone dream of having this as a life when they were a kid? I think of that scene in the Matrix where all the humans are cultivated for energy. Then I imagine myself being Neo, and breaking out. I've decided its time to go.

And go he did. He left on a two and a half year trip around the world. His travels took him all the way down to Bolivia where he had a lot of fun and lots of interesting experiences. One of the most interesting parts of his blog though, I thought, it was when he describes his pre-travel preparations. The process of selling his house, getting rid of his cars and just planning his trip.

Now, after reading that story, I felt curious and did a little search. That was when I found Open Veins. Here is a guy who is also traveling the world and spending some time in Bolivia. About his blog's title, he says:

I can't promise that it will remain the title, but I have decided for now to call this blog "Open veins" after reading Eduardo Galeano's classic book "Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent."

In the book, he traces how the Spanish conquistadores set up a pattern of political and economic relationships that has seen vast wealth extracted from Latin America to benefit firstly European empires and later multinational companies.

Bolivia seems one of the most potent examples of this. Its silver mine in Potosi, discovered by the conquistadores in the 16th century, was at the heart of Spain's wealth and fuelled Europe's economic rise.

More than four centuries later, new veins of wealth are being opened up in Bolivia, this time by foreign multinational companies.

The first is gas, an explosive substance not just for its flammability but also its power to corrupt nations and fuel conflicts. The second is water, the essence of life but a substance that increasingly is being turned into a commodity for sale.

They are today's gold and silver, the lustrous substances that, like the gold in hands of the conquistadores, blind the greedy and rob the poor.

Nick, writes about his interesting adventures in Bolivia and also shares his views on what is going on in the country at the moment.

The last blog I found was South America-Bolivia. This guy's blog is also entertaining. He's got lots of pictures and stories about his adventures in Bolivia. In one of his posts he says:

Absynthe, you little green devil you. I've found you once again, or have you found me?

Yup, I've really done it. I found a ridiculously awesome bar called SALFARI here that brews their own absynthe, or absinthe, or whatever. It's called ajenjo here. Oh, but it does not stop there. They also make their own liquor out of fruits, distilling them in the way written in the old books the witch-like barmaid found. These cocktails cost about 50 cents US each. This, my friend, is a recipe for disaster.
.....this place is a little too close to our hostel, and frankly, their Maracuya (local mango-ish fruit) cocktail is disastrously delicious. Yes, I even used alliteration.

Through his stories one can experience along the different idiosyncrasies regions of the country have. Apparently, he did not like Cochabamba too much. But, as soon as he got to Sucre, I think, it's safe to say, he's feeling cozy.

It is interesting, at least for me, to see how people see Bolivia, and also learn what kind of experiences foreigners have while traveling around.

It is also interesting that a lot of people, not just Americans, but Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, etc. , are actually on the road, globetrotting. Some of these travelers find each other in different places at different times. It could be that two guys meet somewhere in Bolivia and six moths later they see each other again in Peru or Costa Rica or even Indonesia, which incedentally, that is where Travelhead is living today. That is amazing to me. I have to admit, it makes me a little envious.

April 05, 2005

El Alto

MABB is a registered TM.

The city of El Alto used to be a northern suburb of the city of La Paz. Now it has become the capital of the indigenous Altiplano people. This city is in a particularly strategic position, not only politically but also geographically. It is located literally on top of La Paz and its habitants are mainly the poor. Its location gives this city an advantage over other regions around Bolivia. Activists can organize themselves in one place and actually march to the center of Bolivian power, El Palacio Quemado (The Burned Palace).

In more than one ocasion, in my opinion, this city and its citizens has held the government of Bolivia under tremendous pressure. They did this, not only because they can block the entire city of La Paz, but they can also block the Altiplano and when they really want, the entire city.

I say this, because, I think, this kind of power has turn them into some kind of spoiled "kids", judging from some demands I read they have.

According to the El Alto press agency (APA), the people of El Alto, organized under the umbrella entity FEJUVE-El Alto, are beginning to organize their next demands. Some of those demands will be for the government to intall publich bathrooms so the citizens won't have to pay 30 cents for the use of private bathrooms. Another demand, according to the APA, is to demand the government to lift an order which outlines punishments for the people who stoped paying their water and telephone bills, about three months ago. In fact, the leader of FEJUVE, Abel Mamani, said he is saving that money to pay to the new state owned water company.

Lastly, the regional workers' union is already planning what measures it will implement and what its demands will be. They want to demand from the government more work and better education and health services. They add, only infrastructure is not enough, the government must do more.

Some of these demands are starting to sound very strage to me, to say the least. I mean, one thing is to fight for education and health care, but what is the government to do when the protestors don't give it time to do all they demand.

Of course, on the other hand, the Bolivian government is NOT known for its efficiency.

April 03, 2005

Four New Blogs

MABB is a registered TM.

There are four new additions to the list of Bolivian Blogs. You can find the links on the right-bar under Bolivian Blogs.

The blogs are: Mi Bolivia, Open Veins, South America: Bolivia and Motivando.

The first and the last are written by Bolivians. The author of Mi Bolivia has the most amazing photos of interesting places in La Paz. Motivando is from a Bolivian woman who is living in Indonesia. She has very interesting stories about her life in that part of the world.

Open Veins, caught my attention just for the title. Nick makes an interesting analogy between colonial and modern times in Bolivia. In both times, the veins of Bolivia (natural resources) are being exploited for the benefit of others. Ergo the name. Whereas, SA:Bolivia is part of a bigger blog called South America. The author tells us of his adventures living in that region. He's also got excellent photos.

Don't miss them!

April 02, 2005

Bolivia Images

This time I thought I share some images I have of Bolivia. I collected these from some post I did and some I received through email.

The first image is a view from Chacaltaya to the small valleys underneath. One can see beautifully colored little lakes. The next image is an amazing view from the small town of Copacabana, on the shore of lake Titicaca.

The next image is, yet another amazing image of lake Titicaca. That is a stone which looks like someone is sitting. Next, we have another beautiful landscape image of the salt lake Salar de Uyuni.

The next image is a photo I got over email from the coldest night in La Paz, San Juan. This is the night when even the rocks split because of the cold. That is why people make fires. The last image is of a stone formation resembling a tree. I am not sure anymore where I got this image from, but it is just too nice no to post it at least once.


April 01, 2005

Short Comment

MABB is a registered TM.

As a matter of short commentary, the so called "social truce" given to the government by the social movements and the MAS has just ended.

Are we ready for the next round? Is Mr Mesa ready?