One international issue/event has been catching my attention last week, the visit of US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to Paraguay and Peru. Though, I wasn't particularly interested, Rumsfeld's comments forced me to pay more attention. He said:
“There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways...”
This comment resonated throughout the world. First, it signaled a change of approach from the part of the US government (or perhaps just from Rumsfeld) to one focusing on Chavez and Castro. Second, it closely and eerily resembled outdated "cold war" rhetoric. There were various reactions, not just by the affected parties, Chavez (who denied the charges), but by governments in the region.
One reaction that came as a surprise was that of Senator Arlen Specter (R), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Specter is apparently worried of the effects of Rumsfeld's attacks agains Chavez on the war against drugs. He said that the US should be working on cooperation rather than alienating Venezuela.
In another news, international aid is making its way to the Bolivian electoral effort. A group of donors, benelux countries plus Canada, have donated much needed funds to the Electoral Court so it can carry out its important work. The CNE had asked Congress for 55 million, but it was not sure whether it would get all it asked for. This is an important donation because it makes the work of the CNE more doable.
On to the electoral process and political campaigning, the UN duo Doria Medina/Dabdoub, are full in their campaign. Last week they were talking to around 25 thousand pacenos. Doria Medina put forward his plan to ask the trasnational companies operating in Bolivia to share profits with the Bolivian people. He did not call for nationalization, which is one thing that many candidates are doing and not just those from the left.
For the MNR, the oldest traditional party in contention, this weekend is crucial. Over the weekend, the MNR will try to come out of its crisis by coming together and deciding on a presidential and vice-presidential candidate. The choices are between Juan Carlos Duran, who leads the denominated corriente de renovacion (renovation current) and the independent but gonista and with Japanese ancestry, Michiaki Nagatani. These two candidates represent the two opponent factions within the party. It will be a tough job to amend divisions. We'll see what happens.
On the left front, it looks like Felipe Quispe (MIP), leader of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), will be running again for office. This time though, he'll be joined by the leader of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), Jaime Solares. Their slogan is the nationalization of the natural resources. On the other front, there is speculation that the civic organizations in El Alto are debating about whether to support the candidacy of Morales and Garcia Linera (some people in El Alto align Morales with neo-liberal policies). Even more speculation is the possibility of the leaders of Fejuve and COR-El Alto, Abel Mamani and Edgar Patana respectively to run together for office.
So, this is how it stands as of this week. It looks to me that the right is slowly coming together and getting things done, while the left is seemingly coming together as well, but it still has a long way to go.