May 19, 2005

Bolivia Roundup

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The Bolivian Congres continues to be the center of attention. Yesterday, Congress started the process to consider the Autonomic Referendum. In a session, which started at 5 in the afternoon, the legislative voted to approve the consideration of the referendum. The vote sharply divided the congress into congressmen from the West who are opposed to the referendum and congressment from the East who support it. However, as the debate was getting ready to start, a group of activists headed by Jaime Solares and Roberto de la Cruz tried to enter the congressional chamber and stop the debate. Solares even threatened to call his supporters and close down Congress by force. This was enough for Congress to stop and convene the next day to continue the debate. As for the debate, it was bitter and marred with insults and confrontations. There was even a couple of slaps.

So, the debate is set to continue today and by the end of it, Bolivia will have decided on yet another contentious issue. Namely, when to hold the referendum, how to do it, and what will the question state. That is, if Solares, Evo and De la Cruz allow Congress to carry on with its work.

In the mean time, marches, demonstrations, explosions, and confrontations, continue to be the order of the day in La Paz. It doesn't show signs to stop. The people in El Alto are, if anything, planning to intensify their actions and, true to their traditions, slowly radicalize them. My take is, if the government starts to responding in kind to agressions and people start getting severely injured and even killed, it will have a real crisis in hands.

The president, on his part, turned the page on the Hydrocarbons law (more on Mesa's indecision problem in Ciao!) and is busy receiving criticism and defending his new economic and social plan. Here is a table taken from La Razón, which outlines the social aspects of the plan.

Mesa's Plan

Expansion of health coverage.
Reinforcement of the Universal health coverage for mothers and children (SUMI).
Implementation of a health insurance program for the informal sector.
Priorities will be set for intercultural, democratic education, moral values and work training.
To carry out the National Education Congress (CNE).
Work Indigenous Issues
Progressive eradication of child work.
To better the quality of work and worker intermediation.
Support indigenous economic development with identity and equity.
Include the indigenous peoples in the Constituent Assembly.
Carry out plan for the development of Ayllus (Aymara social units) in peace.
Popular Participation
Election of prefects.
Better local governance through training.
Continuation of the democratization of access to land.
Decentralization of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA).
Generational Equality
Subjects related to children, the young and the old, will be treated horizontally.
Application of programs protecting these groups.
Design social policy with enphasis on equality of gender.
Free identification cards for citizens to guarantee their rights and obligations. Centers of justice will be brought closer to the people to strategic zones throughout the country.

This table outlines the economic aspects of Mesa's plan.

Mesa's economic plan "Plan Económico Bolivia Productiva y Solidaria"
Behind the plan are 6 bills, 50 decrees and 8 resolutions.
Develop and diversify export products and negotiate "real access" to international markets. Work on the betterment of sanitation and certification of products. Strengthen internal market through programs like Provivienda (financing of housing), Compro Boliviano (government purchase of Bolivian products), support creation and functioning of MyPEs (small and medium enterprises), promote local production, infraestructure maintenance (Provial), development of turist industry and construcion of airports. Better productive capacity to create employment based on National Productive Strategies(EPI) of rural and agrary development (ENDAR), industrial development (ENDI) and the hydrocarbons.

Better competition by eliminating bureaucracy burdens and simplification of paperworkand decentralization of government agencies.

Also included are increase electricity and telecommunications coverage, promotion of local production and reactivation of the mining sector.
Fiscal sustainability (reduction of deficit of 0.5%), better the quality of government spending, better use of international cooperation resources, better information systems and fight against smuggling.
Facilitate access to credit and develop financial markets.

The resources in the hands of the AFPs (around $us 5.000 million) to be injected into the productive system. This system is called Mutuo Hipotecario de Vivienda (MHV), which will deal in futures.

Reinvention of Nafibo to facilitate financing form larger enterprises. And, the creation of Fondesif to provide credit to the MyPEs.

The reactions to Mesa's plan were not favorable. The president of the association of private entrepeneurs, Mr Mustafa, spoke of a program which does not address the real problems of Bolivia and thus will not foster economic growth. Additionally, he said the program will not have the necessary financing and is not realistic.

The energy companies operating in the country have already decided to stop all additional investment planned for the near future. Some companies have started law suits against the Bolivian state for failing to meet their obligations and contracts. (read more in Publius Pundit)

So, it is a chaos in progress and no end in sight.

Here is another point of view of Barrio Flores. It is always interesting what other blogs are saying about this.