February 27, 2005

El Alto FEJUVE: Here we go again

MABB is a registered TM.

The leadership of the civic organization representing all the neighborhood associations in El Alto, FEJUVE, has decided to implement a general strike indefinitely. The measure, which is aimed to pressure the government to once and for all end the operations of the water services company, Aguas del Illimani, is set to begin on March 2. Some leaders have been in a hunger strike and others have called the population to stop paying their water bills. The altenos are fed up with Aguas del Illimani and want the company out. Right now!

I ask myself, where is this going to end up. When the people can force the government to force private companies out of the country, take politicians to court, change the constitution, force public officials out of office, demand their own governments, etc. Granted some of these demands fall in the category of reform. However, there should be a legal process and not just "bullying".

That is just as a matter of short commentary.

The American Response

MABB is a registered TM.

Here is the American response:

The Supreme Court of Florida has instructed me to post the following to ensure strict balance in these turbulent times.


To the imperialist British colonizers.

In the light of your indecision over joining a common European Currency, your dissatisfaction with the European Union, your bickering with European Governments and the fact that you already almost speak our language and refuse to speak any other European languages, you are to be annexed as a State of America. Your state code will be GB. Zip codes will be assigned to replace your old postal districts. The state capital will be Stratford-upon-Avon which is a lot prettier than London. Princess Diana will be declared a saint. You have already assimilated so much American culture that you are unlikely to notice the transition. To aid in the assimilation, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. Look up "aluminum" in any good American Dictionary. Check the spelling and pronunciation guide. We discovered it, we named it, you are mispronouncing it. Learn to live with it. You are, of course welcome to your idiosyncratic and illogical place-names such as Edinburgh, if you wanted it pronounced 'Eddinburra' you have spelled it that way in the first place. You will quit using words such as "fortnight". The correct term is "a two week period". You will learn words such as "credenza", "intern" and "chad".

2. There is no such thing as "UK English". UK English is the relic of a defunct colonialist power which attempted to impose British English linguistic superiority on a nation which has a higher number of English speakers.

3. Your film-makers should learn to distinguish the American and Canadian accents. American accents are not limited to redneck drawls or New York accents. Mainland Americans have more than enough accents to cope with in our own country, so all British dramas will now bear subtitles, especially those made in impenetrable dialects such as Scottish, Scouse or Geordie. To make life easier for mainland America, all British films and TV programs must use American vocabulary and accents; Scotch characters will wear plaid, Irish characters will have shamrocks on them, Welsh characters will not be used since we don't have Welsh Americans, and English characters will wear bowler hats and pinstripes.

4. The British film industry will no longer portray all Americans as cowboys, rednecks, trailer trash or Beverly Hills billionaires. Hollywood will continue to use "Mockney" and "Posh" British accents as this makes it easier for viewers to identify which characters are British. You can have Hugh Grant back. He's a lousy actor and we don't want him either. All British films will be made in Hollywood where the weather and scenery are better. Your film industry is already unable to make a halfway-decent film which doesn't contain a American in the starring role. All American characters should be 'good guys'.

5. You will learn your new national anthem "The Star Spangled Banner". It shall be sung every morning at kindergarten, high school, university and your places of work. Your Union Flag will be hung up any damn way we wish so stop bitching about it being upside down. If there was meant to be a right way up you should have made it simpler. All Union flags will be replaced by the Stars and Stripes over a 12 month period of time.

6. You should stop playing soccer and rugby. There is no need to have two games, one of which is confusingly like Football and one of which is called football but patently isn't real football. If it doesn't require 45 pounds of padding, it isn't football. You should also stop playing cricket. Americans can't understand the rules. If you insist on playing this game which is only played by former British colonies, you will introduce a simplified scoring system, timeouts, colored strips and cheerleaders to make it more interesting. Any match which takes longer than 90 minutes will be declared a draw.

7. In films, as in real life, we decide who the bad guys are. The bad guys are those guys who don't do as we tell them. They are also the guys who attract the biggest audiences into movie theaters. You will cease using the word "cinema". They are "movie theaters". The snippets of forthcoming films are not "trailers" they are "teasers".

8. November 5th is no longer a day for fireworks. July 4th is the appropriate fireworks festival. If you want a big fireworks party on November 5th, we will help you to blow up your Houses of Parliament. You won't be needing them any longer; Disneyland London will be situated there. Hunting with packs of dogs is also banned. Instead, you will go hunting with a pick-up truck, some six-packs of beer, two coonhounds and enough guns and ammo to equip a private militia. There is also no such activity as "caravanning". It is properly called "camping". The thing boy scouts do with tents and bedrolls is called "tenting".

9. Roundabouts will be banned. What is the point of turning left in order to turn right? They are confusing to Americans and are death traps. You will start driving on the right with immediate effect. Most of the world drives on the right already. You will be allowed to turn right on a red light if safe to do so though you must check local county legislation as this is not permitted in all areas.

10. Those things which you call chips are cholesterol-soaked abominations. You will start to eat fries - light fluffy potato in crisp coating. If you want to eat British-style fried potato sticks you will need a certificate from your doctor and good medical insurance. Beer is to be served cold. The warm, flat drink you call beer is properly termed 'ale' and the FDA have determined it to be unfit for human consumption. You will also learn the difference between crackers, cookies and biscuits to avoid causing unnecessary confusion to mainland Americans.

11. All inter-personal communications between family members, even if resident in the same house, must be through a lawyer. It is compulsory to sue somebody at least once per year - be inventive. It is compulsory to have therapy three times each week and to recover false memories of your childhood which allow you to sue your parents and/or your therapist. Therapy will take the place of speaking to family members. You will be given compulsory courses on how to become dysfunctional. Name your children after interesting medical conditions.

12. You will not have guns. In the eyes of Mainland Americans you are wayward children. Children are not permitted to play with firearms unless they have a legitimate reason to do so i.e. they plan to gun down the population of a small town (self-defense) or slaughter every living creature within a mile radius (hunting).

Thank you for your co-operation. You will be assimilated.

If, for any reason, you want to read more about this topic, do either one of these things:

a) Go to this link.
b) Do a search on Google.

February 26, 2005

Notice of Revocation of Independence

MABB is a registered TM.

This time I want to share a "funny" letter that is circulating in the Internet. One more "fine" example of British political humor. It seems there are, by now, many versions of it, but they read pretty much the same way.

The reason I post the text is because I think it characterizes, in a special way, the complex and "special" relationship between the US and the UK governments, on the one side, and the US and UK citizens, on the other side.

This is the newer version and it pretends to have been authored by Monty Python's John Cleese. Of course, nobody really knows if Cleese is the author of this version. It is evident he is not the original author though.

Notice of Revocation of Independence
by John Cleese

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your
failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern
yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your
independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up revocation in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up aluminium. Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix ize will be replaced by the suffix ise. You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation.

Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up vocabulary. Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up interspersed. There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize.

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney,upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as Taggart will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is Devon. If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become shires e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as Men Behaving Badly or Red Dwarf will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American football. There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American football is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays American football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders,your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called rounders, which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called Indecisive Day.

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time,you will go metric with immediate effect and conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer,and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. The substances formerly known as American Beer will henceforth be referred to as Near-Frozen Knat's Urine,with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine. This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen,Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or Gasoline, as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon- get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.

Stay tuned for the American response...........

February 23, 2005

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Genocide

MABB is a registered TM.

After reading Barrio Flores' article on the charges brought against former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (GSL) for allegedly engaging in Genocide, I took a tour around Bolivian newspapers to read about it in more detail.

Sure enough, newly appointed Attorney General (AG), Pedro Gareca, formally filed the charges to the Supreme Court. The AG, charges GSL and 15 members of his cabinet with Genocide. The former president and two of his former ministers (Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, Defense Minister and Minister of Government Yerko Kukoc) are accused of committing the crime of Genocide and the rest of the ministers are accused of being accessories to the crime.

The thing that attracted my attention is not that the process will go on, because after all, GSL is a very powerful man and, I am sure, he has the means to at least try to stop the accusations against him and his ministers. Although, it seems at this point in time that he faces an uphill battle. There are other powerful forces in the country who want him brought to justice. With the latest actions, GSL is one step closer to be tried. Instead, the thing that attracted my attention was the curious charge itself.

Genocide, seems to me a BIT out of place and essentially technically wrong. I asked myself, why would an AG of a country take the risk and accuse someone of a crime which doesn't fit the actions in question?

The first thing I did is look for the definition of Genocide. I found this definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I looked in various dictionaries, but they are essentially the same definitions as the one in Meriam-Webster. The definition states: "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group".

But, of course, many things in this world, including law, are subjective and thus subject to own interpretations and definitions. So I tried to look for definitions of Genocide in other more international (broad) sources. One such source, the International Criminal Court (ICC) can be seen as the place to provide a more exact and more universal definition of Genocide. (you can find the definition on this UN link, which is of course the mother organization of the ICC)

The ICC's definition of the crime of Genocide is:

". . . Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:

  • killing members of the group;
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

So, we can see, it is more exact as to what kinds of crimes it applies to. However, it still refers to the meaning cited by the dictionaries. Similarly, in Amnesty International's website, we can find a Spanish definition of Genocide (genocidio), which is pretty much identical at the one used by the ICC. That was to be expected, I thought.

Finally, just to make sure...., I consulted the academic world and found an interesting site where we can find various scholarly definitions of Genocide.

So, where does all this research takes us?

At the beginning of the issue. Is it right to prosecute GSL for Genocide, taking into account that the events in question were carried out in the context of a mass demonstration where the Government of Bolivia (personified by GSL) tried to, allegedly maintain order? At the heart of the question is whether or not the charge of Genocide is correct.

Well, perhaps it is not correct according to the world's definition of Genocide, as we have seen. However, it is the only available tool in the Bolivian Penal Code (BPC). According to the BPC, in the second book, title one, chapter four, which deals with international law crimes and if we read article number 138, titled Genocide, we can, surprisingly, find "almost" the same definition the rest of the world has of Genocide. It reads (in Spanish): "El que con propósito de destruir total o parcialmente un grupo nacional, étnico o religioso, diere muerte o causare lesiones a los miembros del grupo, o los sometiere a condiciones de inhumana subsistencia, o les impusiere medidas destinadas a impedir su reproducción, o realizare con violencia el desplazamiento de niños o adultos hacia otros grupos, será sancionado con presidio de diez a veinte años. En la misma sanción incurrirán el o los autores, u otros culpables directos o indirectos de masacres sangrientas en el país."

It is the highlighted sentence on which the Bolivian AG is relying to charge GSL and his ministers with genocide. Translated it says "In the same manner, the authors and/or direct or indirect culprits of bloody massacres in the country, will be penalized."

In the eyes of the population and of Mr Gareca, GSL massacred 56 people back in October 2003 and according to the interpretation of "bloody massacres", which is taken as "...the violent action by governments or its representatives to solve via armed force social or political conflicts...." as stated in Benjamín Miguel Harb, Código Penal Boliviano y Leyes Conexas, Pág. 125, Mr Gareca has decided to charge GSL with Genocide. (source link)

Now we can argue all night long whether GSL and his ministers have committed Genocide or not. I think it is clear they have not. The charge is simply technically wrong. GSL's actions could not be qualified as Genocide. Crimes against humanity, perhaps, but not Genocide.

In the end, in the eyes of the world, the charge of Genocide is still raising brows, if not contempt, about Bolivian law. If not because the charge is technically wrong and that means that Bolivian lawyers do not know the difference between Genocide and other crimes, but because this could also mean that Bolivian lawyers are incapable of making logical penal law. In any case, it is clear to me the BPC has to be brought in sync with the rest of the world.

February 20, 2005

Bolivian Crisis: A Look from the Financial Side

MABB is a registered TM.

In the spirit of generating a bit of speculation about the "possible" effects of what the international conglomerates are "planning" in Bolivia, I decided to post these paragraphs.

On February 13, this year, it was reported that the Irish Oil and Gas producing company, Pan Andean, was in talks to buy a controlling interest in a Bolivian oil field. Pan Andean is said to be negotiating to buy more interests at the Monteagudo Oil field. The company already owns 30 percent of the concession and now wants to purchase the 50 percent Repsol-YPF owns for US$1.25 m. The rest 20 percent is owned by giant Brazilian oil company, Petrobras.

The curious thing is not that Pan Andean, the smaller company of all the energy companies operating in Bolivia, is buying Repsol-YPF's shares in the field, but the fact that Repsol-YPF is selling.

Repsol-YPF's interests in Bolivia are and have been substantial. It has controlling interests on Andina S.A., one of the capitalized companies operating in Bolivia. However, now we learn that the company is selling some of its interests in Bolivia. But, why would this company be selling its interests?

Well, I think, one does not need to be a prophet or a seer to realize that the unstable and hostile business climate in Bolivia is scaring the company. In fact, on an AP report released on February 16, we can see a glimpse of what lies behind. The Spanish-Argentine oil giant announced its five-year plan. In it, the company, says it will invest US$1.1 billion in western Argentina over five years on exploration and refining projects.

My take is the company wants to reduce its dependence on its Bolivian investments and wants to spread its political risk. If things don't go well for the company in Bolivia and somehow the government wants to nationalize its resources, then the company would be left with its investments in "safe" Argentina.

Although, I have to say, the risk of full nationalization is minimal. Even the most radical political actors (e.g. El Mallku) in the Bolivian political landscape realize that would be a suicide and that they need these companies to survive.

At the same time, I think, this action by Repsol-YPF, is very telling. The political and legal uncertainties or not having the new Hydrocarbons Law is really having an effect on Bolivia's foreign investment climate.

The congress should hurry in finishing the Hydrocarbons Law and stop this uncertainty once and for all.

February 17, 2005

Bolivian Crisis: The Second Wave

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It seems the second wave of attacks against Bolivian Democracy are on the horizon. One can already smell the dissent.

On the one side stand the Evo/Fejuve (El Alto) and their allies and on the other side we can see the Comite Civico de Santa Cruz (CCSC). Both sides are starting to get impatient with the government.

In the Evo/Fejuve camp, all is not in harmony. Evo and his followers are trying to be very careful on voicing their opinions. The priorities of Evo's party, MAS and his electoral base, the coca growers, are getting in the way of excellent relations between the Fejuve and Evo. Additionally, there are some factions in MAS (i.e. Filemon Escobar) which are coming out with their own priorities and not necessarily following party line. But in the end, there is good concertation between Evo and the Fejuve.

The Fejuve El Alto has apparently "studied" the enemy's demands and it doesn't see anything it likes. The powerful civic organization has already voiced its discomfort with the government's allowances to the CCSC's demands. The Fejuve will try to force, what they call the October Agenda (the passing of the hydrocarbons law, the case Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and the Constituent Assembly) in to the government's priority list. They accused the Comite Civico of relegating the October Agenda for their own agenda.

On the other hand, the CCSC continues to work on its own February Agenda (autonomy, election of prefects and referendum). However, confirming their fears, the government is dragging its feet on the issues. The debates in congress are becoming partisan bickering and there is already indications that both agendas are in conflict. The CCSC, in the mean time, is working diligently in collecting firms for the citizens initiative and it is getting ready to unilaterally launch a referendum on autonomies if the government does not deliver on its promises.

In the mean time, the Mesa administration has practically washed its hands from the referendum on autonomies and is trying instead of delay the issues as much as it can.

On the side of the congress, aside from trying to tackle the hydrocarbons law, the Constituent Assembly, modifying the law to allow the Electoral Court to hold the referendum, appropriating funds for the Electoral Court, debating the convocation to a referendum law, the election of prefects, etc., etc., etc., it seems a consensus is coming to life. The Patriotic faction, which is a group of congressmen in support of President Mesa, want the election of constituents and the referendum on autonomies to take place on October 10. Recently, the government and the congress have agreed to work together on a four point agenda: passing the hydrocarbons law, prefect elections, referendum on autonomies and the Constituent Assembly.

As all the parties in the conflict try to asses their situations, one thing is sure. Major conflicts are approaching in the near future. The Fejuve El Alto has already voiced the beginning of a series of meetings to coordinate pressure measures to force the October Agenda to the top of the list. At the same time, the CCSC is getting ready to implements its own pressures if it doesn't get what it wants. While all this is happening, the two rival camps are already starting to come into close conflict and confrontation. As we all know, the city of Santa Cruz is circled by supporters of Evo Morales/MAS. Some of these small towns, while applying political pressure, i.e. road blocking, are engaging in severe physical confrontations with the followers of the CCSC. All this, without any police present to guarantee security.

So hold on to your seats!

February 15, 2005

Conservative or Liberal?

MABB is a registered TM.

Here is a question that entered my mind while reading and watching US news.

Is President Bush a conservative or a liberal?

What do you think?

Beautiful Bolivian Sights

MABB is a registered TM.

Once in a while I will post a special mention on MABB of a blog or site, which deserves a look.

This time I want to direct all of you to Josh Renaud's Amazing Adventures in Bolivia. This site has an excellent collection of photos of Bolivia. Josh is traveling around Bolivia and, most important, is sharing his photos and experiences, with the world.

There are two things I find interesting in his site. One is his collection of photos, which I've already mentioned. The second thing is his sharing of his personal experiences with Bolivian culture. This is, in my opinion, another set of pictures, which show, through words, Bolivian culture in all its complexity. Moreover, it shows how a non-Bolivian sees and experiences the country and its people and deals with the strange customs he gets presented with.

I find Josh's site a good read and a good look!

In addition, I am updating the Bolivian Blogs list, so take a look.

February 10, 2005

The History of the Comite Pro Santa Cruz

MABB is a registered TM.

The Comite Pro Santa Cruz (CPSC), which is the umbrella organization for all the civic, unions, indigenous and business organizations representing civil society in Santa Cruz, has demonstrated its power by movilizing around 300,000 people in this month’s cabildo abierto (town hall).

The CPSC has played a pivotal role in making Santa Cruz’s demands for autonomy a reality. Backed by, what some say, a powerful business elite and the synergetic forces of the 183 member organizations, the CPSC has been able to bring about real pressure to the government and thus consolidate itself as the de facto regional government of Santa Cruz.

The CPSC has a long history behind its achievements. Its origins go back to 1950 when the then 43,000 Crucenos were living in the forgotten region of Bolivia. A region in desperate need of attention by the central government. A group of university students brought together various civic forces and founded the CPSC. At the time the first priority of the new organization was to demand the integration of Santa Cruz through the road connecting Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. In addition, the committee asked the central government for drinking water, electricity, sewer system and for paved streets. On January 10, 1951 the first cabildo or town hall meeting was organized. This was to be the beginning of a long tradition of cabildos to express Cruceno demands.

The advent of the 1952 revolution marked the dissolution of the committee. The Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), placed in its firm grip the city of Santa Cruz and the national territory. But, the disappearance was short lived. In 1957 the organization resurfaced and this time it demanded a drink water pipe network from the government. In August of the same year, the CPSC, led by Melchor Pinto Parada, fought for the right to receive 11% from the taxes to oil production. This was one of the major victories won by the efforts of the CPSC.

Now a days, there are serious arguments making the case that the CPSC is dominated by the Santa Cruz business elite. Erik Ortega, makes this argument in his articles published in one of the most important newspapers in Santa Cruz, El Deber.

Ortega looks at the presidencies of the committee for the last 10 years. In it he reveals a series of presidents, vice-presidents and close associates taking turns on the presidency of the organization. He highlights that in the space of the last 10 years, there has only been one president who did not come from one of the business associations, the transport worker, Benjamin Zapata (1979-1980). In the period from 1995 to 2005, the presidents of CPSC came from the various business associations, private enterprises, cattle raisers and political parties. I would cite the list, but I think it would be redundant.

Moreover, Ortega makes the case that the trend is not about to change. On February 12, there will be new elections in the organization. There are two candidates which have thrown their hats in the ring. German Antelo, a doctor and Antonio Franco, an engineer. The two candidates support the efforts for autonomy and are committed to work towards that end. Ortega adds that the presidency of the CPSC is an excellent springboard to start a career in politics. Many of the former presidents are serving today in congress or have served as Prefects of Santa Cruz.

There is always a certain air of uncertainty when elections come. That is true, even in old democracies like the US. The elections for president of the CPSC is subject to the same assessment. However, at the moment, there is no indication that the February 12 elections will bring a radical departure from the path the CPSC has embarked. To the contrary, there is every indication that the path will be continued regardless of who becomes the next president, who will direct the organization until 2007. We can, with relative certainty, expect that the CPSC will keep the pressure up on the government towards autonomy.

One thing that we can expect, though, is the increased calls for more participation on the part of the social movements and other civic organizations like the Departmental Federation of Neighborhood Juntas (FEDJUVE) and the Departmental Worker's Central (COD). These organizations surely want more to say within the CPSC. Although, no major differences are expected, with Bolivian opinions so diverse, we cannot rule out a crisis before the referendum and Constituent Assembly.

February 07, 2005

The Bolivian Carnival

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It is already a custom I tell you a little bit about Bolivian culture. This time I want to tell you about the Bolivian carnival.

carnival is basically a week of partying, drinking, dressing up, and getting wet.

Look at this link from La Razon to see some beautiful pictures of this year's carnival.

My fondest memories of my life in Bolivia are about those times when I spent carnival there. I don't know and I have not been able to find any information about the origins of that tradition, but it really doesn't matter, when you live in Bolivia. :-) The thing is, it is there and it is one's duty to take full advantage of it.

One thing is for sure, carnival in Bolivia has a regional character. It is different in each region of the country. The most important carnival is the one in Oruro. It has even been proclaimed "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by the UNESCO in 2001.

After the Oruro carnival, come all of the others. The carnival in Santa Cruz is full of luxury and beauty. The carnival in La Paz is very folkloric. The one in Sucre is very native. Cochabamba also has a folkloric one, and so on....

In any case, carnival is the best week to have fun, and then some more fun. As a kid, I used to play a lot with water balloons. I used to prepare myself by buying lots of water balloon bags. The best were called Bombucha. Once I had my supply of water balloons, me and my friends used to start playing with water long before carnival arrived. About two weeks before the official start of carnival season, my friends and I used to fill lots of balloons with water and stand around at the door of one of our houses, and wait for our victims. The victims were usually girls our own age or older girls, who would pass along our street. Of course, we were supposed to wait for the ones who were playing, but one always makes mistakes, right? ;-)

As I got older, my worries were not so much the balloons, but the parties. In La Paz, the tradition is one party for every day of carnival. Since carnival lasts for a week, we usually had, between seven (when lucky) to four parties. Hey, the parties were hard to orgaize. The parties were usually organized by a member of the circle of friends. Each party had a theme. I remember very well the pirates party, the pepino (see the photo) party, and the black and white party. The most fun is the fact that one gets to spend a lot of time with his or her circle of friends and meets a lot of new people.

For another fun story about carnival, check out Barrio Flores. Great article Eduardo.

Also see these other links to experience the carnival closer.

La Prensa
El Deber

February 06, 2005

Why Prefect and Referendum before the Assembly?

MABB is a registered TM.

I have personally been puzzled and intrigued by the anxious (almost desperate) insistence on the part of the Comite Civico de Santa Cruz (CCSC) to hold the referendum and elect a Prefect, before the Constituent Assembly (CA) has a chance to meet.

The way, I thought, it should all work out, was to go through the process of the CA, where the question about autonomies was going to be proposed, debated, resolved and included in the new constitution. That is according to what the government said. It was then, and only through that process, the different departments or states were going to be able to obtain autonomy legally. The form of the autonomy would be according to what the CA defined autonomy to be. After all, it is only logical that if a country's political institutions were going to be radically transformed, this transformation followed a legal framework and thus, what the constitution dictated.

The position of the CCSC seemed to me intransigent. They pressed the government to hold the national referendum on autonomies before the CA. This particular demand, seemed to have a reason, which was not so transparent. Some of the reasons floating around were the apparent monopoly of the traditional political parties on the CA. Other reasons, however, argued the hidden motive was the secret desire of the cruceno business elite to secede from Bolivia. Yet another reason had a group of transnational energy corporations conspiring to divide Bolivia so they could continue with their plans. All these arguments were (and still are) unsubstantiated, but the first one might give us something to think about.

However, a more careful look reveals that the reasons for such a demand are strategic in nature. The cruceno lawyer Juan Carlos Urenda, who aside from being the intellectual leader within the CCSC, is the one person who proposed the version of autonomy Santa Cruz demanded on the January 28 town hall meeting. The main aim of his proposal appears to be for Santa Cruz to eventually acquire the ability to become an autonomous region. A region, with its own head of government and own assembly, capable of administering its own internal affairs.

According to Urenda, the reasons why there should be elections for Prefect (by popular vote) and, more importantly, a national and binding referendum on autonomies, before the CA starts making decisions, is two fold. First, Urenda believes the government and the traditional political parties do not have the necessary will to arrive to a model of autonomy, envisioned by Santa Cruz, during the CA. Second, the Law on Referendums (from July 2004) does not facilitate, and in fact, makes it more difficult, for a national referendum on autonomies to be held.

On the first point, Urenda argues, the traditional political parties would have an overwhelming monopoly on the CA process. The assembly members are, in fact, mainly representatives of the major political parties. If the decision of autonomy were to be decided in the assembly, Santa Cruz would have less influence. As a result, if a model of autonomy was created by the CA, the shape of that autonomy will most likely not be best suited for Santa Cruz. The lack of political representation of Santa Cruz in the CA and the lack of will by the political actors are two of the reasons cited by Urenda as to why the desired autonomy is in serious doubt.

As for the second point, it leads us to this question: why does the Law on Referendums stands in the way of Santa Cruz's autonomic efforts? According to the mentioned law, only the executive and legislative powers have the ability to call for a national referendum, with a citizen's initiative being the only alternative in which the people could bring about such a referendum. Moreover, on the issue of departmental referenda, the law clearly states that "while there is no state government elected by popular vote, the referendum will be called by the legislative branch". Additionally, the law specifies that a referendum has to be fully financed by the department or state in question. However, each department or state is subject to the executive power, and thus not free to use their funds as they see it fit.

According to Urenda and the CCSC, the only way to obtain autonomy is to, first, force the government to approve a law which provides for the legal election of a Prefect. The de-facto assembly already exists. It is the committee formed by the CCSC the day of the town hall to oversee this process. Second, to force the government to call to a national referendum on autonomies and have it declared binding. These two demands address the fears of the CCSC. By declaring the referendum binding, the CCSC is assured that come the day of the CA, the results of the referendum will have to be taken "as is" by the constituents and just written into the new constitution. And the Prefect? Well, the Prefect is insurance for the CCSC. In the case the Government of Bolivia (GOB) drags its feet on the referendum, Santa Cruz will already have a regional government and a Prefect, who will be elected by "popular vote", and could call to a departmental referendum on autonomies.

Notwithstanding, this seems to me to be sitting on very thin legal ground. The CCSC has to be very careful not to step over into the unconstitutional side of the issue. As of now, it seems, their case is in a very favorable and good course. Now, they just have to make sure the referendum really happens and that the Prefect elections go as planned. Additionally, they have to keep the pressure on the government so it does not drag its feet on it. Also, they have to keep, and this might prove more challenging, the opposition (FEDJUVE, Evo) in check and be careful not to ignite their powerful networks. So, no matter what happens, come June 2005, Bolivia will be a very different country.

February 04, 2005

The Globalization of the Social Movements

MABB is a registered TM.

Just as the world economy is going through a process of globalization, the world's social movements are jumping in the process as well.

According to the El Alto Press Agency (APA), the local (and very powerful) federation of neighborhood associations, FEDJUVE, is joining a world movement to fight the privatization of drinking water. The movement is called Red Vida and came to life at the seminar "Citizen Movements Against the Privatization of Water", held in San Salvador, El Salvador on August 2003. Red Vida, which stands for Interamerican Vigilance for the Defense y the Right to Water, wants to wage a world wide war against Lyonnaise Eaux Suez (Suez). This company was the parent company of Aguas del Illimani, a company which was ejected from El Alto, thanks to the actions of FEDJUVE. Suez Group has operations all over the world working in the fields of electricity, gas, water and waste services.

This is but one more example of the way in which the social movements around the world are joining forces and "globalizing" themselves. The advanced technologies which make it easier, cheaper and more efficient to communicate, have served as a platform to the globalization process, not only for private business and governments, but also for local social movements.

One result of these global organizing efforts by the movements have been the successful gathering of thousands of demonstrators to disrupt meetings like the World Economic Forum or the G8 summits. Now we see a different flavor of organizing effort. The coming together to fight against a private conglomerate like Suez. What we are most likely to see from these efforts are more demonstrations against the company's interests all over the world. Perhaps the places to watch are those where poverty is the norm. That is poor countries.
Representatives of FEDJUVE, while attending and participating in seminars and work shops at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, expressed their reasons why they demanded the ejection of the water services company, Aguas del Illimani. They were surprised to learn of similar complains from other organizations about Suez's daughter companies in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, other towns in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US. As a result FEDJUVE decided to join Red Vida.

February 01, 2005

"The Blancoides in Discord" (translation from Spanish)

MABB is a registered TM.

Yet again, I want to share an article that I found through my surfing the Internet. The author calls blancoides), those people of light-skin, otherwise known as mestizos.

Translation from Jorge Ordenes' article: "The Blancoides in discord"

Humberto Vazquez Machicado, in his essay "The Bolivian Ethnic Problem (Complete Works, Vol. 5, p. 731) postulates that Bolivians "from the Hispanic man, we have inherited good as well as bad qualities. To the easy comprehensive assimilation,
corresponds lack of continuity and resistance in the work began. To the light emotionalism and sentimentalism, contrasts shallowness of the idea and the concept. Above all, we, in the little time we live in freedom, have not acquired a concrete
objectivity, which tells us that when we create something of our own and typical, it is the root of culture and civilization." This was written by the cruceno author in 1930. We can still say in the beginning of the XXI century, the bad influences of the European still linger, with malice, among the blancoides of the west and east of Bolivia, in detriment of themselves as well as everybody else.

How will this correspond to all the rushed decisions, of "easy comprehensive assimilation" with "lack of resistance and continuity in the work began", the fact that Bolivia is today poor, frustrated, immoral, retarded and with itself identified,
in function of and as a result of, the bad historical decisions taken by blancoides and mestizos, from all regions, which were not even able to maintain continuous connections between North and South, East and West? To the contrary, the western blancoide and mestizo, from their "supreme" seat in central government, neglected blancoides and mestizos from other regions; indios from all regions; and, which is incomprehensible, !neglected their own things! The worst thing is that, very often, the western blancoide, tried to save his interests by sacrificing the other regions' interests, because these were weakly organized, politically and autonomously. However now, things have changed. The fight between blancoides, mestizos and indios of all regions, is just starting. In function of these fights, and taking into account the power in play, voice and holler are granted to those who endured....scaring the western blancoides.

The Indio, from the XVI century to 1952, was the victim of exploitation by the blancoide by his own docility and resignation. From 1952 to 1985, he was the victim of politicians who used him to vote for the pink ballot and used him as a guiney pig, without even providing education or giving him the tools to march ahead. From 1985 on, the indio turns more of a victim of himself, the coca leaf, erred neoliberal policies, the neo-left, corruption and the ill informed and even
worst managed NGOs, which spread demagoguery, but are well funded. Everything, because of the negligence of the nation's blancoides. In Eastern Bolivia, the exploitation reached cruel extremes. Specially, during the commercialization of
rubber a the beginning of the XX century. Vazquez Machicado also talks about this.

To the "emotionalism and sentimentalism" mentioned by the author, correspond the tolerance and submission of the Central Government towards El Alto, the coca growers union, and to those who take away the rights of others. Similarly, corresponds the shallow "concepts and ideas", which the blancoides crucenos have demonstrated by taking the rise in fuel prices as an excuse to demand autonomy and a town hall meeting, which by the way, is far from being constitutional. It is also highly questionable, the decision of the western blancoides to allow the election of prefects by popular vote. If the blancoides (of all regions) step on the constitution: what can we expect of the rest, including the 5 million indios?

It is with all reason that Vasquez Machicado asserts all blancoides in Bolivia, until 1930, have not acquired a "concrete objectivity" of "something of our own" which serves as the roots of a proper culture. Well, for what I can see, we
have not been able to acquire it until 2005 either. Sad!

It is the failure of the light skinned Bolivian which is highlighted in this article. I you asked my opinion, I would say, WE have failed in the simple task of creating a prosperous Bolivia by exhibiting the worst of the worst the European ancestors have inherited us. With just one thing in mind, taking care of our own, we have neglected to realize the necessity to bring a better quality of life and education to every human being living in the territory. We have not been able to realize the interdependent nature of this world, and by that I mean, that different groups depend from each other to survive.

The original article in Spanish can be found in this link: