August 11, 2005

The Tuto Quiroga Project

MABB © ®

More and more it looks like Bolivian politics is dividing itself in two very distinct and very obvious camps, the left and the right. On my previous post I spoke about the Garcia Linera project. This project is an attempt by Garcia Linera to unite the left behind his leadership as vice-president candidate and Evo Morales' presidential candidacy. On this occasion I'd like to especulate on Tuto Quiroga's own porject to unite the right.

According to press reports, it looks like Quiroga and his camp are working towards that goal. Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, Cochabambino, former ADN and former President, has decided to step forward and enter the race with a new political "project", Alianza Siglo XXI (Alliance 21st Century or ASXXI). This project is more or less clearly defined in terms of its opposition to the nationalization of the natural resources and its belief in open markets and trade. Things that for the Bolivian left are taboo at this time.

Quiroga has been working hard and thus traveling extensively throughout Bolivia to consolidate support for his project. Press reports are confirming now that he was able to secure the support of around 33 citizens groups and indigenous organizations. The latest alliance with 15 organizations, in and around La Paz and El Alto, will be announced today in the rebel city of El Alto. In addition to those, Quiroga has alliances with 18 organizations in Cochabamba, Tarija, Potosí and Sucre (Chuquisaca).

In addition to this impressive (I am certainly impressed he has gained support in El Alto) result, Quiroga stands to gain support from two of the traditional parties, MIR and NFR. If Jaime Paz Zamora, the leader and founder of MIR, has his way, his party would be giving up presenting his own candidate in the next elections and instead support Tuto's candidacy. According to Paz Zamora, his party must now realize that it has to concentrate on the regional level because after regions gain autonomy, this level of government will be important. Paz Zamora has support from his son, who is a deputy from Tarija, Rodrigo Paz Pereira. Additionally, Manfred Reyes Villa, leader of NFR, has also expressed its intentions to examine a possible alliance behind Quiroga. This action more or less would unite the right behind Tuto Quiroga, thus setting up a clash between the left and the right on December 4th.

Notwithstanding, I find interesting the fact that Bolivia is betting (what I think all) on the complete renovation of the political class. Two reasons indicate this desire for renovation. First, Tuto's alliances with the civic and indigenous organizations have been based on the promise, from the part of Tuto, not to include politicians with strong ties to the worn out governments in recent years and to the neo-liberal policies applied by them. Tuto has been keen on keeping that promise. I am not sure if he will be able to keep it until election day. After all, precisely those people are the ones who have extensive experience in administration and government affairs. It is a hard promise to keep.

Secondly, the current MIR crisis is another indication. The MIR will have its national convention on August 18. In this date, the party is supposed to define itself all over again. There is a strong current within the party, lead by the congress woman, Erika Brockmann, which want a change in the leadership of the party. These people feel the need for Jaime Paz Zamora and long time political operative (who has considerable weight), Oscar Eid, to step aside and leave space for new leadership to emerge. According to people from the party, this is exaclty what will happen coming August 18.

Personally, I think this is a good move. Paz Zamora is worn-out as a leader. It is time for new leadership to take over and for it to re-define where the party stands. If the right achieves this feat (to bring new leadership to the parties), I think that the left will be pressed to differentiate itself and to come out with real and concrete proposals. Leaving aside that militant and populist rhetoric for a realistic proposal on how to achieve leftist ideals would seriously challenge the right. However, as I have been saying all along, at least there is a movement forwards. The elections are a-coming and road-blockades, disturbances and senseless protests are just bad memories (at least for now).