December 31, 2006

Good Bye to 2006 and Happy New Year 2007

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I wanted to wish you all once again:

Happy New Year 2007!

Feliz Ano Nuevo 2007!

Guten Rutsch in 2007!

December 30, 2006

Two Critical Points to Ponder About for 2006

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As the graph above shows, the biggest government failure for 2006 has been the Constituent Assembly (CA). The government itself has agreed with this judgement (El Diario. As of this report, the CA has 164 working days to approve around 300 articles of the new constitution. A Mammoth of a task, considering that since its inception the CA cancelled sessions 41% of the time. As for the results, we only have to remember it hasn't even approved its own internal regulations code. Well, at least not with the input of the minority.

Additionally, there is a report published by a Human Rights organization highlighting the not so promising trend for the Human Rights in Bolivia. The report talks about the improvements in education and health, but mentions worrying trends in some civil, political and economic rights. Specifically, it is mentioned that rights of freedom of expression, aggressions to journalists, and intolerance with political preferences, could be in grave danger.

These two reports have gained very little attention by the Morales government. Instead, Morales has announced for next year a massive re-evaluation of bureaucrats. Responding to demands by MAS' bases (constituency), the government will staff bureaucratic jobs with people who prescribe with the party's goals. Somehow this plan is supposed to preserve the institutionalization principle of the public service.

December 27, 2006

A Late Merry Christmas

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I must apologize for not posting my wishes earlier, but where I was there was no internet. Nonetheless, I hope all the readers had a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you a New Year full of happiness, health and blessings. Once again, thank you for visiting MABB!

Here are newslinks I thought were interesting:

Bolivia's effort to deport Cuban dissident draws criticism
Miami Herald Wed, 27 Dec 2006 0:14 AM PST
A government human rights monitor on Tuesday called for the government to halt the deportation of a Cuban dissident critical of President Evo Morales' ties to Havana, saying the move could hurt Bolivia's image abroad.

Opposition Increases in Four Departments in Bolivia
Diario Las Americas Tue, 26 Dec 2006 10:54 AM PST
In the last few months, particularly the last few weeks, it has become evident in Bolivia that the government of Evo Morales is facing significant opposition in four Departments important in the political and economic life of the country that are confronting Morales’s attempts to form a constitutional assembly to approve a constitution that would facilitate his political ambitions.

Sen. Harry Reid Traveling to Bolivia This Week
KTVN Reno Tue, 26 Dec 2006 10:39 AM PST
Nevada's senior U-S Senator is heading south this week -- about as far south as you can go. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will join a bipartisan delegation on a trip that includes stops in Bolivia and Ecuador, two members of Latin America's recently emerging left.

APM gives govt ultimatum on Karachipampa plant - Bolivia
Business News Americas Tue, 26 Dec 2006 1:26 PM PST
Canadian company Atlas Precious Metals (APM) expects Bolivian state mining company Comibol formally to hand over the Karachipampa polymetallic plant by January 30.

In prosperous Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, discontent over Morales reforms
International Herald Tribune Tue, 26 Dec 2006 6:50 AM PST
The nationalization of Bolivia's natural resources industries has won President Evo Morales few fans in this resource-rich city.

Duke may take $50M charge on asset sale via Yahoo! Finance Tue, 26 Dec 2006 12:06 PM PST
Duke Energy Corp. may take a $50 million impairment charge for the fourth quarter on the sale of hydroelectric assets in Bolivia, Reuters reports.

Duke Energy in Talks to Sell Bolivian Assets, Plans Impairment Tue, 26 Dec 2006 8:50 AM PST
Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Duke Energy Corp., the largest U.S. utility owner, is in talks to sell assets in Bolivia including a stake in a hydroelectric dam.

December 20, 2006

The Santa Cruz Effect on the Popularity of Evo

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Evo Morales has lost in popularity due to the media luna's actions. The media luna is the Eastern region of Bolivia, made up by Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz and Tarija. It is called that way because of its likeness to a half moon.

However, it is still a respectable 62%. Not many presidents can show off such political luxury. What is interesting is that more women (37%) disapprove than men (30%). It boggles my mind to think that Morales is becoming less appealing to women. Could it be because he is not paying enough attention to women's issues? or perhaps women see the current polarization and the latest violent acts in a more negative way than men? or maybe the women in Santa Cruz make up the difference.

The survey was conducted in what Bolivians call the eje troncal (or central axis). This means the three most important and largest cities in Bolivia, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, plus the satellite city of El Alto.

December 16, 2006

The Opposition Shows Its Muscles

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December 15, 2006, will go down as a historic day in Bolivia. Four departments, Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz and Tarija, consummated simultaneous cabildos (town-hall meetings) to demand more autonomy and the respect to democracy by adopting a 2/3 voting system in the Constituent Assembly. News agencies in Santa Cruz are proclaiming the birth of a new autonomic region in Bolivia. The meetings were used as a mechanism of direct democracy to decide the direction these regions would take, if the government continued ignoring their demands. The decisions taken were to reject the new constitution emerging from the Constituent Assembly, if this would violate the law by not adopting the 2/3 voting system. The other decision, which followed the first one, was the ratification of the prior decision to follow the autonomic path independently from the central state.

In the mean time Bolivian society has split in roughly two parts, opposition and government forces. As a result, there have already been violent confrontations among the two groups. The most serious confrontations were in the community of San Julian, around 30 Km (21 mi) east of Santa Cruz. Reports cite 68 wounded, some seriously, from fights between government supporters who were blocking an access road to Santa Cruz and opposition supporters who wanted to attend the gathering. Sporadic pockets of violence are being reported as well. In Santa Cruz city, groups of oppocision supporters have burned offices, roughed-up government supporters. At the same time, groups of government supporters have also attacked their counterparts. In Sucre, while a group of church supporters gathered to pray and government supporters handed out leaflets against the Archbishop of Sucre, tensions broke down into violent acts. In Cochabamba, at a gathering of Prefect Manfred Reyes Villa's supporters, government supporters violently clashed with their opponents, until the police restored peace with force. Finally, it is reported that nine journalists have been attacked in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz because they were covering the wrong side of the conflict.

In his speech, German Antelo, President of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, said "it is not for hatred, it is for love" that the people of Eastern Bolivia are doing this. He went on to say "it is enough. They went overboard. We gather here to say BASTA". Those were the words with which he started his speech. Finally, Antelo proclaimed the ten commandments for Bolivians:
  1. Love God and Bolivia above all
  2. Do not allow that your leaders swear in vain
  3. Respect the cultures of all peoples
  4. Honor the constitution and the laws of the land
  5. You shall not kill, nor will you allow that others kill
  6. You will not allow anti-democratic acts
  7. You will not steal, nor will you allow others to do the same
  8. You shall not lie, nor will you allow others to lie
  9. You will not allow blocks to the people's work
  10. You will not be greedy. We all shall be solidary

The entire speech is posted below for your detailed inspection.

Discurso del Dr. Germán Antelo, Presidente del Comité Pro-Santa Cruz
(Cabildo del 15 de Diciembre del 2006)

“NO ES POR ODIO, ES POR AMOR.” Así lo dijo la poetisa cruceña, con lágrimas en los ojos y con el puño cerrado.

“El cruceño ama a su Bolivia con amor de hijo.” Así también nos lo cantó el poeta mayor, Rómulo Gómez hijo. “Y por ella acepta, cualquier sacrificio”, completó. Nos hemos sacrificados con paros y huelgas. Hasta con el hambre de mujeres y hombres valientes que se han mostrado capaces de ofrendar su vida por la Libertad.

Pero ya está bueno, Señor. Ya está bueno. Ya se pasaron de la raya. La paciencia se acabó. Este pueblo se cansó. Ya no aguanta más. Hoy nos reunimos para decir BASTA.

Basta de atropellos. Basta de agresiones. Basta de mentiras. Basta de discriminaciones. Por eso, hoy otra vez, levantamos la voz. Y desde cuatro departamentos de Bolivia, les gritamos de nuevo que queremos AUTONOMÍA.

A la Autonomía ya la gestamos en las calles, ya la bautizamos ante este Cristo. Ya la registramos con medio millón de firmas. Ya la confirmamos con un Referéndum irrefutable.

Y ahora, cuando nos preparábamos para una gran comunión nacional en la Asamblea Constituyente, un solo partido trata de negarnos un derecho ganado. Y para eso insulta, trampea, maniobra, patea la mesa, rompe las reglas, y lo hace descaradamente, ante el Altar mismo de la sagrada memoria ciudadana.

Pero no lo van a lograr. No lo vamos a permitir. No los vamos a dejar.

¿Qué es lo que queremos?


La mitad del último siglo de nuestras luchas la hemos pasado ignorados. El Occidente descubrió el Oriente recién cuando se enteró que había petróleo en el Chaco. Hasta ese entonces, el centralismo aliado a los imperios de coyuntura, ya se había farreado la plata y ya era cómplice de los barones del Estaño.

Luego cambiaron a la rosca minero-feudal, por la rosca burocrático-feudal y siguieron mamando. Después, el centralismo gestó dictaduras y siguieron meleando. Y las regiones, a Dios gracias. Y la periferia, ignorada, marginada, empobrecida, aprovechada, desangrada.

Hasta que saltamos nosotros por las regalías. Nos costaron sangre, que entregamos para que el país por lo menos exista en sus rincones lejanos. Y en los libros sucios de los politiqueros de siempre, pudimos registrar por vez primera, la legítima demanda de un pueblo de agallas.

Nos reprimieron. Nos torturaron. Nos exiliaron. Nos balearon. Pero no nos rendimos. Y volvimos a luchar por la Democracia. Volvimos a pelear por la Autonomía municipal. Y lo logramos.

Ahora los municipios de todo el país están en el mapa de Bolivia. Con Alcaldes y Concejales elegidos. Autónomos. Bolivia también se lo debe a valientes pioneros cruceños.

Pero el centralismo es una plaga que se reproduce. Luego se asociaron con el neo-liberalismo, y nos trajeron recetas foráneas, para seguir decidiendo en nuestro nombre. Los partidos se volvieron centralistas. Llenos de caciques y prebendas. Con dictadores en democracia. Con aprovechadores y demagogos.

Y seguimos solos. Dependiendo de nosotros solos. Pagando impuestos y recibiendo migajas. Trabajando de sol a sol, para sobrevivir, para crecer. Y crecimos, y nos desarrollamos. No gracias al centralismo. Más bien a pesar del centralismo.

Andrés Ibáñez es el símbolo mayor de esta lucha secular. Queremos ante este pueblo volver a levantar las banderas de su revolución igualitaria. Un valiente en la defensa de los pobres.

Esta, pueblo mío, es la continuación de la revolución de Ibáñez. La lucha continúa. Esta es la etapa moderna de la revolución autonómica democrática por los descalzos.

¿Hacia dónde vamos?


La nuestra no es una revolución armada. No tenemos fusiles bajo el poncho. No hablamos con violencia. No actuamos con rabia. Siempre rechazamos la muerte y la incitación a la sangre. No queremos masacres de Ucureños, no queremos Ñanderogas, no queremos Ayo-Ayos, no queremos lo de San Julián, no queremos lo de Huanuni. NO QUEREMOS LO DE HUANUNI.

Ni cercando. Ni bloqueando. Ni siquiera tirando piedras. Mucho menos quemando buses o hiriendo a ciudadanos o a periodistas como hoy día en San Julián. Nunca van a impedir que hagamos sentir nuestra voz. Nunca. Una voz que clama por democracia. Una voz que denuncia las dictaduras. Una voz que repudia el fascismo.

Nuestra revolución no la vamos a hacer por odio. La vamos a hacer por amor. Amor a esta gente. Amor a esta tierra. Amor a sus culturas. Amor a la Vida.

Desde el alto de esta magna tribuna ciudadana, desde esta honrosa posición de representante del poder cívico de este pueblo, quiero proponer a todos que anunciemos claramente ante todo el país, lo que ha sido y seguirá siendo el planteamiento supremo de este noble pueblo. Los Mandamientos Ciudadanos. El primero de ellos debe ser:


Dios es Amor. Su inspiración Divina nos ilumina el amor por la Patria chica, por la Patria Grande. Por eso nadie podrá abusarla. Nadie podrá cambiar su bandera. Mucho menos entregársela a imperios norteños o caribeños. Amarla para defenderla. Para hacerla valer. Para dignificarla. Para integrarla. Para articular 9 diversidades en un solo símbolo nacional. Para sentarnos en armonía, entre 9 iguales, alrededor de una sola mesa de trabajo y de fraternidad.

Y no hay primero, sin segundo. Nuestro Segundo Mandamiento Ciudadano debe ser:


Señor Presidente. Señor Vicepresidente. Señores Parlamentarios. Señores Constituyentes. Señores Prefectos. Señores Alcaldes. Uds. juraron ante los símbolos divinos, cumplir y hacer cumplir la Constitución y las Leyes. Bueno. Ahora Dios y la Patria se los están demandando. Este pueblo se los está demandando. Ni nosotros, ni la Historia podrá perdonar cualquier trasgresión abusiva.

A Uds. los hemos elegido. Les hemos dado un mandato. Mañana mismo, desde todos los rincones, cada uno de nosotros les va a mandar una carta, un mensaje, les va a hacer una llamada, una visita, una presión: no vivirán en paz, mientras no cumplan lo que juraron.


Bolivia es un arco-iris de diversidades. Ninguna cultura es menos que las demás. Ni tampoco una raza se puede hallar hegemónica sobre las demás. Eso es una aberración. Nadie tiene el derecho de ignorar al vecino, al hermano, al conciudadano. Nadie tiene el derecho de hallarse más originario que el otro, más privilegiado que el otro. No se puede discriminar ni por herencia, ni por genes, ni por rango, ni por razones del pasado. Cualquiera que estas sean. Todos tenemos derecho de un lugar al sol, con equidad.


¿Cómo se puede hacer trampas para aprobar reglas? ¿Quién podrá respetar reglas tramposas? Ni siquiera el que las hace. Para hacer leyes, hay que seguir la Ley. No comprando votos, ni comprando conciencias.

Igual. Para hacer una nueva Constitución, hay que respetar la Constitución vigente. Los 2/3 unen. La mitad divide. La Constitución dice 2/3 y 2/3 tiene que ser. La Ley dice 2/3 y 2/3 tiene que ser. Cueste lo que cueste. Y la legalidad hay que exigirla siendo legales.

Si no se cumple la Ley, acudiremos a todas las instancias legales, ciudadanas, nacionales e internacionales. Utilizaremos todos los métodos de lucha legales y legítimos para hacer cumplir los pactos sociales de siempre. No nos vamos a rendir.

La Constitución y las Leyes no se negocian. ¿Acaso duraron unos contratos petroleros no tan legales? Tampoco va a durar una Constitución que se haga en la ilegalidad. Es con 2/3, SI o SI.

¿Qué quiere este Cabildo?

¿Y si nos violan? ¿Y si nos engañan? ¿Y si nos aprueban una Constitución trucha? ¿Quién la va a cumplir? ¿Cómo la van a hacer cumplir? ¿Con las armas? Nosotros le pondremos siempre, el pecho de la legalidad.


Nos han amenazado con ponchos rojos. Nos han amenazado con uniforme camuflados. Han querido asustarnos con militares, sin contar que estos respetan a sus pueblos. Que no se dejan maniobrar con lobos vestidos de ovejas. Que no se dejan mandar por quienes los enjuiciaron. Por los que no respetan su institucionalidad. Han querido atemorizarnos con cuarteles extranjerizados. Con compras o robo de armas. Con talibanes.

Pero no nos vamos a dejar amedrentar. Nos protege el escudo de la Verdad, y tenemos la lanza de la Razón. Vamos a combatir por la Justicia y la Paz. Vamos a exigir juicios por las muertes ya sembradas en este año. Y vamos a respetar y hacer respetar a las Fuerzas Armadas. No las pueden usar. Mucho menos abusar. Mucho menos intrigar.


No permitiremos que se quiera amordazar a la Prensa. No toleraremos que se quiera acosar al Poder Judicial. Que se quiera amenazar al Poder Constitucional. Que se quieran derogar las instituciones. ¿A nombre de qué? ¿De un revanchismo cultural? ¿De una ansia de hegemonía racial?

¿Qué les vamos a decir a las Dictaduras?



¿Acaso se han juzgado los escándalos develados? ¿Acaso hay encarcelados por la renovada corrupción en los pasillos del Estado? ¿Acaso se ha hecho Justicia ante los avasallamientos? Mucha impunidad.

Ya está bueno de esa Ley del Embudo. Ancha para los compañeros. Angosta y torcida para los adversarios. Acusemos a los ladrones. Publiquemos sus caras y sus nuevas mañas. Demostremos al mundo que nos están robando lo mejor que teníamos: la posibilidad de trabajar y producir. El derecho de vivir en nuestro país. El derecho a tener oportunidades.

Tenemos que volver a poner en vigencia los valores morales. La honradez, el respeto a la verdad, el sentido del deber, de la Justicia. Hay que replantearse una nueva visión introduciendo la Ética en todos los niveles. La Ética debe estar en la Nación, en el Estado, en los ciudadanos. En nuestras casas, sindicatos, partidos políticos.

¿Qué le vamos a decir a los pícaros?



Las campañas comunicacionales de Hitler y Goebbels siguen y siguen. Engañando y mintiendo. Desvirtuando. Falseando. Echándonos epítetos de oligarcas. Queriendo mostrarnos mal ante el país y el mundo. Pre-fabricando titulares, acusaciones. Denunciando conspiraciones que nunca se comprueban.

Al país se le miente sobre la Coca y la Cocaína. Nos inventan enemigos. Se acusa sin pruebas. Se ataca sin fundamentos. Se nos cuentan cuentitos de terror. Se hacen guiones ficticios. Se habla de hechizo y brujerías. Se dice que vivirán 700 años. Que la coca es mejor que la leche. Que la soya es para los chanchos. Ay, Pinocho. Tu nariz ya atravesó el país. Ya es hora de que pelen capucha. De que nos digan cual es la Constitución que nos quieren enchufar. Cual es la nueva trampa que se están armando. O la que nos están armando desde otras latitudes.

Ya es hora de que el mundo sepa que aquí no llegó Mandela. Ni su hermoso espíritu integrador se acercó por acá. Están mintiendo, mientras toman revancha contra algo que no hicimos. Mienten cuando se dicen anti-imperialistas. Al día siguiente se cambian a anti-colonialistas. Después son anti-petroleros. Luego son anti-agricultores. Mienten cuando nos declaran enemigos internos. Cuando nos acusan de separatistas.

La verdad es que son anti-bolivianos. Que la Patria de ellos es la mitad de la mitad de un corazón mezquino, egoísta, discriminador. Exigimos la verdad. La verdad histórica.


Se empuja a que emigren nuestros familiares. Nuestros vecinos. Nuestros hermanos. Nuestros mejores trabajadores. Se forman filas en migración ahuyentados por el miedo, la inseguridad, la incertidumbre. Buscando el pasaporte de la desesperación. Asustados porque trancan proyectos. Atemorizados pues se limita la inversión. Arrinconados pues se acabó la CONFIANZA.

Bolivia puede ser productiva. Bolivia puede ser un país de trabajadores, artesanos, campesinos y empresarios. De pequeños, medianos y grandes productores. Podemos ser agrícolas, mineros, petroleros, transportistas, profesionales o comerciantes. Tenemos que generar trabajo para nuestros hijos. Tenemos que pasar de la pobreza a la prosperidad. Necesitamos Trabajo. Trabajo y Autonomía. Autonomía. Trabajo. Democracia.

Necesitamos crecimiento, pero por sobre todo mejorar la calidad de vida de todos los bolivianos y bolivianas. Necesitamos más equidad, más oportunidades, inclusión social interna e internacional, y la vigencia plena de los derechos humanos.

Es responsabilidad de la Sociedad Civil incidir en el fortalecimiento y reconstitución del marco legal, para construir una democracia participativa que sea sustentable en lo social y en lo económico. Ante la debilidad de los partidos, ante las debilidades de los Gobiernos nosotros vamos a decir siempre: PRESENTES.


Basta de envidiosos y quita-tierras. No podemos quitar los bienes al prójimo. Tenemos que respetar la propiedad que se trabaja. La que rinde frutos. La que se conserva para el porvenir. No hemos recibido herencia de los antepasados. Estamos tomándola prestada de nuestros nietos. Debemos sembrarles para el futuro.

Necesitamos seguridad, pero por sobre todo, necesitamos SOLIDARIDAD. Nuestra lucha contra la pobreza debe ser la mayor de las prioridades. Que los que tengan más, creen las condiciones para contribuir a los que tienen menos. Para que todos vivamos en paz y armonía. Para que las regiones que tienen, aporten para las que no tienen. Porque de esta vez, o todos salimos a flote juntos, o no salimos. No pueden salir los unos a costa de los otros.

Caminan juntos la consideración del prójimo, el espíritu de servicio, el anhelo de perfección. El ciudadano tiene derechos políticos, derechos sociales, derechos económicos. Hay que asumir las libertades públicas y también el derecho a comer, vestir, educarse, habitar y vivir dignamente en un ambiente sano.

Esa es la ciudadanía de alta intensidad. La ciudadanía plena.

Esos son los 10 Mandamientos Ciudadanos que propongo, para el gran Pacto de la Libertad entre Bolivianos. Eso es lo que nos dice la conciencia ciudadana reunida en estos Cabildos.

Los Diez Mandamientos son nuestra propuesta hacia el Movimiento Cívico Nacional. Que crece, que se une, entre 4 Departamentos. Que luego se suman a 6. Que llegamos a los 8, y que pronto seremos los 9 Departamentos. Cuatro con Autonomías Departamentales confirmadas por Referéndum Vinculante. Otros que ahora quieren serlo. Y otros que pronto van a querer también. Sumemos y no dividamos.

Estos Diez Mandamientos quisiera que fueran el Mandato Moral de este Cabildo. El desafío lanzado a la Nación. Quisiera pedir el aval de este Cabildo para que este sea el marco de un renovado Movimiento Cívico Nacional, de un nuevo esfuerzo. Para la Concertación de la Conciencia Ciudadana en Bolivia.

El Civismo es nuestra reserva ética. Somos el Gobierno Moral, sin dobles agendas ni oscuros intereses sectarios. Somos el Control Social más estructurado. Somos y continuaremos siendo la garantía de que se cumpla la voluntad del pueblo, ahora y en el largo plazo. Muéstrenme sus banderas.


Los nuevos Gobiernos Departamentales elegidos son el fruto de esta voluntad ciudadana. De esta fuerza de los Cabildos. De la energía ciudadana. A los Prefectos tenemos que apoyarlos para que se vayan transformando en Gobernadores. Y ahora no basta andar. Hay que correr. Hay que eliminar al Centralismo. Fortalecer más a las provincias, a los municipios, a todas las comunidades. Ir hacia una mayor democratización del poder.

Tenemos que unir capacidad de gestión con civismo. Responsabilidad ejecutiva con espíritu de lucha. Los Prefectos tienen que unirse. Reunirse para diseñar la Nueva Bolivia Autonómica. Las regiones tienen que integrarse. Este pueblo estará con Uds. No se les puede fallar. El pueblo estará vigilante, activo y movilizado siempre. Para que se cumplan los Mandamientos Ciudadanos.
Hay que dar todos los pasos legales y legítimos para que se cumpla la voluntad que el pueblo ha entregado en elecciones indiscutidas, en Referéndum indiscutible. Las autoridades elegidas tienen claro su mandato. De un pueblo que quiere, que exige, que no desmaya. Un pueblo que ratifica hoy que la lucha continúa. Seguiremos luchando por el pueblo.

Si este no es el pueblo, ¿el pueblo dónde está? Si este no es el pueblo, ¿el pueblo dónde está?

Hoy la Historia da un nuevo salto hacia el Porvenir. Que Dios nos bendiga.

Gracias Santa Cruz. Gracias Bolivia.

December 15, 2006

Showdown Between Opposition and Government Forces

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The departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija are showing their determination to put a stop to what they call, government rollover. The four departments are holding simultaneous townhall meetings (cabildos) to assert (and kick start) the autonomic process and show their support for the 2/3 voting system in the Constituent Assembly. The four meetings are being held in each capital city, and as you can see from the image on the left, the Santa Cruz meeting, which is the most important, is already well on its way.However, the four townhall meetings are no the only concentraltion of people in the country. The other departments are also holding their own versions of demonstrations. As you can see from the next graph, there are concentrations of people in the departments of La Paz, Potosi, Tarija and Sucre. These last ones are in support of the simple majority voting system.

Reports are already reaching the media. If you want to see up to the minute images, you can visit the Yahoo section for Bolivia. It has the most up to the minute images I have seen. It also has current news. You can also find more images in Getty Images repository. Visit the section for Bolivia.

At present time there are reports of around 22 people injured in confrontations in a locality near Santa Cruz. Boomberg says: "Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Clashes between protesters and government supporters in Bolivia's eastern state of Santa Cruz have left 22 people injured, a government spokesman said. The injuries are not serious and the violence in Santa Cruz is ``absolutely under control,'' government spokesman Alex Contreras said in a telephone interview from La Paz." And AlertNet reports: "By Eduardo Garcia, SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Supporters of leftist President Evo Morales clashed with protesters going to an anti-government rally in eastern Bolivia on Friday, leaving about 20 protesters injured, a state official said. The protesters were traveling to Bolivia's wealthiest city, Santa Cruz, where local leaders planned massive street protests on Friday afternoon to demand greater regional autonomy."

The organizers of the townhall meetings are expecting to have one million people come together. is reporting 600,000 people in Santa Cruz alone. Hoybolivia will have constant updates throughout the meeting. The newspaper El Nuevo Dia has reported a demonstration held yesterday in support of the 2/3 voting system in Evo's own turf, Cochabamba. It says that Prefect, Manfred Reyes Villa, wants to call to a townhall meeting due to respond to citizen's demands.

If there is one thing evident, and you can see it clearly in the graph and the picture above, is that Bolivian society is divided like never before. The clashes between government supporters and opposition suporters is one worrying indication that the split is serious and neither side wants to yield an inch. CNN's dramatic account says: "SUCRE, Bolivia (AP) -- The battle to rewrite Bolivia's constitution has come down to a math problem, and the question is anything but academic. Hanging in the balance is not only the direction the nation takes, but perhaps whether it remains a whole country at all."

December 10, 2006

II Summit of the South American Community: Balance

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The II Summit of the South American Community is over and here is the balance. In few words, it can be said that the summit was NOT successful, even though the government, for logical reasons, might have an opposite view. Although, in one aspect, it was a hit.

If one criteria for success was South American integration, a la Boliviar, then the summit failed to lay the grounding stones. The presidents and other representatives, all, agreed on one single thing: Integration. However, pretty much all disagreed on how the integration should be carried out. There were basically two observable currents. The one, following the Chavez and Morales agenda has populist, socialist and communitarian undertones. It concentrates on "taking care of the people". The other current is that of Alan Garcia and Michelle Bachelet, and perhaps, Lula da Silva. That is, it also has social undertones, but is does not define itself as enemy of globalization and neoliberalism. This las part is one of the most important ideological differences.

The summit failed to create a mechanism to start the planning and coordination stages. Instead it created a High Officials Commission, which would further work on the integrationist goal. It also failed to create consensus among the participating governments. In their speeches, many Presidents, such as Chavez, Da Silva, Bachelet, Garcia, and even Morales himself, conceeded that consensus was not present and even criticized the summit as not productive.

One of the highlights was though, the rapprochement between Peru's Alan Garcia and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The two had exchange insults during and right after the Peruvian elections. Both countries had pull their top diplomats out of the respective countries.

Additionally, the summit was plagued by confusion, disorganization and lack of facilities to hold a meeting of that calibre. The organizers admitted the problems and made it clear they warned Morales of all those problems.

Meanwhile, the oppostion did not waist time and sought several meetings with some presidents. Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, met with Vazquez and Lula da Silva. He wanted to explain the details of the crisis in the Constituent Assembly over the voting methodology. Former president Rodriguez Velze, wrote a letter to Da Silva to also express his opinions and inform him in detail.

It seems a bit ironic to me hosting the summit and speaking of regional integration when at home is being talked about "independence".

December 09, 2006

While Morales Gets to Play Host, Garcia Gets to Fix or Brake the Conflict

MABB © ®

It's been a busy week in Bolivia. The President of Bolivia is hosting the II South American Summit in the city of Cochabamba. Morales started the event, to which 7 of the 12 invited presidents are attending, by calling for regional integration. In his opinion, "integration will solve many demands, the historical conflicts (he calls it damage), and the regional energy problems. On his part, President Lula Da Silva, as acting President of the event, also called for regional integration taking the European example of using coal and steel, but in the Southamerican case it would be energy and infrastructure.

The list of attendants looks like this:

Presidents - Lula da Silva (Brasil), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Bharrat Jagdeo (Guyana), Alan García (Perú), Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay), Hugo Chávez (Venezuela) y Evo Morales

Vicepresidents - Ecuador, Carlos Serrano Aguilar, and Argentina, Daniel Oswaldo Scioli

Representatives - Panamá's Social Minister, María Roque Borth; Colombia's International Relations Minister, María Consuelo Araujo; Cancillor (Sec. of State) of Paraguay, Rubén Ramírez, and México's Viceminister for Latinamerican Issues, Jorge Chein.

Guests - Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Rafael Correa (Newly elected President of Ecuador).

Note: Daniel Ortega and newly elected President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, arrived in Venezuelan planes. Correa arrived with Chavez.

Those who shine for their absense: Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Alfredo Palacio (Ecuador), Néstor Kirchner (Argentina), Nicanor Duarte (Paraguay), and Ronald Venetiaan (Suriname).

While the Latin American Presidents are meeting in Chochabamba and talking about regional integration, the country is once again on the verge of collapse. At the very least, that is how I see it. Very dramatic developments. Four departments, Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, have decided to hold a townhall meeting to start procedures for the implementation of regional autonomy. In Santa Cruz, in particular, it could be heard, from thousands of people, the "independence" call. The decision conveyed the desire to act unified and thus negotiate with the central government. In the words of the civic leaders, the agreeing of the government to the 2/3 voting method in the Constituent Assembly was not enough anymore. From now on, autonomy would be the goal. Furthermore, there was a new regiona created, the Autonomic Region of Bolivia.

These events come on the back of more violence taken place last week. As a result of the government's decision to impose the simple majority vote in the assembly, the opposition block started a series of hunger strikes. The government responded with indiference. Its supporters responded with violence. In La Paz, several striking groups were attacked by government supporters to try to stop them. By the same token, the opposition in Santa Cruz also responded with violence when large groups of university students violently attacked and took over several governmental offices. This promted the executive to close all the public buildings in the city and prohibiting all public employees to participate in any act of provocation.

The MAS government has been forced to negotiate. The person in charge of the negotiations is Vicepresident, Alvaro Garcia. Through Garcia the government has made several calls for dialogue and negotiation. In the last two days it has signaled the acquiecense of the government to revise the voting method in the assembly and to respect the aunonomic referendum.

The situation seems critical at this point in time. While playing host to South American countries, the government has to first keep the crisis to a low level; try to keep it in some kind of control; carefully avoid trouble; and lastly, keep negotiating with the opposition. I am surprised the opposition is not trying to take advantage of this situation. I mean, to try to preassure the government even more by organizing more public disruptions to the summit.

Sources: Bolivian press (please see the links on the side bar if you want to revise the sources for this post.)
II Cumbre de Naciones Sudamericanas

December 06, 2006

A Prayer from the Radical Front

MABB © ®

From all the Bolivian blogs in English I read, there are two who talk about politics in the country, Ciao! and Barrio Flores. Due to recent events, both have recently published posts that to me have one thing in common: They point to the authoritarian tendency of the current government.

In his post, Miguel from Ciao! concludes:

More than anything, the message Evo & his supporters are sending to the Bolivian public is simple: "Opposition to our views is not allowed, and will not be tolerated." Quite the democratic revolution, eh? (read more here)

While Eduardo from Barrio Flores tell us of his experience in the country:

What had happened was that some of the social movements, some belonging to MAS, had tried to “vigilar” (as in vigilantee) and prevent the meeting of 8 of the 9 departmental civic committees and several of the prefects. They were in town at the invitation of the Cochabamba prefect, Manfred Reyes Villa, to brainstorm about possible measures hoping to convince the government to support 2/3 majority in the Constituent Assembly for all of the articles. As it stands now, the government only wants simple majority for the articles with a 2/3 vote for final approval. (read more here)

The authoritarian tendency observable in the country might have deeper roots than just political motives. Historically, since the 1950s, Bolivia has developed a syndicalist and unionist culture. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the Bolivian Workers' Union or COB was one powerful organization being able to stand to the military tyranny. Due to these organizations and their demand for leadership, there was an indigenous intellectual elite created which developed its own ideology and identity, such as indigenism, katarism (among other currents). These indigenous intelectuals have been preaching a kind of anti-west identity, which has been taking hold in the new leadership.

But, rather than elaborating on this, and make it seem like a boring lecture, I want to share the following with the readers.

This is a prayer I came across with in one of my presentations about Bolivia. A Bolivian came to me, before the presentation, and without introduction, told me he was happy I was doing that and that he was going to say a couple of things. He handed me a piece of paper as well. Days later I took a look at the paper and found the following prayer which was part of an interview he had given with a magazine. In the interview he is being asked about his opinion on Morales and what has been going on in Bolivia. As the answer to a question on what he thought about whether Europeans could understand the problems of Bolivians and the extensive development aid being given, he gave the prayer. I won't give any names, but just say he made it sure to express the prayer spoke for all the indigenous population in Bolivia. Later I found out he is the representative of one of the unions. I will also post it in Spanish, because my translation hasn't been good anough. If anyone thinks he or she can do a better job translating it, please do.

Senor, protegeme de mis amigos
pues de mis enemigos , se cuidarme solo
militares y fascistas
Embajadores y consejeros
Conocen el valor de mis piqueteros

Senor, protegeme de voluntarios
y combatientes contra el subdesarrollo
sus cabecitas estan en otro rollo
de nuestra revolucion
nada comprendieron
de su condicion
menos, menos, menos

Senor, protegeme de etnologos y sacerdotes
y los cientos de Quijotes
que liberar a las gallinas quieren
y los mismos derechos exigen
para nuestras mujeres dicen
Como hacerles comprender,
que nuestras mujeres son reinas?
Mientras ellas en sus tierras
solas, munecas sin alma
rodeadas de mil leyes
en la soledad se pudren

Senor, protegeme de las NGOs
plagadas de buenas intenciones
y de gringos con problemas

Alla en sus tierras frias,
la frialdad del estado,
la maldad del vecino,
la envidia del propio bolsillo,
los ha dejado vacios
que donde bailan mil
no se acabara la esperanza

This simple prayer sheds light in the thinking and approach to life of those most radical members of the now called "social movements", which before were the powerful workers' unions.

News on the Current Situation in Bolivia

MABB © ®

Here is a brief overview of the online press with articles about Bolivia's current situation and more:

Morales supporters clash with opponents in Bolivia
AlertNet Tue, 05 Dec 2006 6:48 PM PST
Source: Reuters LA PAZ, Bolivia, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales clashed on Tuesday with anti-government protesters who accuse him of trying to deprive the opposition of a voice in the ...

Morales supporters clash with opponents in Bolivia
Reuters via Yahoo!7 News Tue, 05 Dec 2006 1:45 PM PST
LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales clashed on Tuesday with anti-government protesters who accuse him of trying to deprive the opposition of a voice in the drafting of a new constitution, local media reported.

Chávez heads for Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia
El Universal Tue, 05 Dec 2006 12:43 PM PST
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is to start Wednesday a tour of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and, possibly, Paraguay, to bolster regional integration plans. The ruler made the announcement after being proclaimed for the 2007-2013 term in office.
Bolivians Satisfied with Morales' Take on Chile
Angus Reid Tue, 05 Dec 2006 10:32 PM PST
- Many adults in Bolivia believe their president is dealing with a neighbouring country in a proper manner, according to a poll by Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado published in La Razón. 68 per cent of respondents approve of Evo Morales' strategy of seeking closer ties with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

Bolivian policies raise tensions in Brazil
Financial Times Tue, 05 Dec 2006 4:52 AM PST
Tension is mounting between the newly elected government of Bolivia and its biggest neighbour, Brazil, as Evo Morales, Bolivia’s leftwing nationalist president, begins to deliver on campaign promises to get tough with business interests, especially foreign ones.

House nears vote on wide-ranging trade bill
Reuters via Yahoo! News Tue, 05 Dec 2006 7:45 PM PST
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday moved closer to a vote on a wide-ranging package of trade legislation, as lawmakers scrambled to finish their work for the year.

Lawmakers make last-minute push for trade bills
Reuters via Yahoo! News Tue, 05 Dec 2006 2:55 PM PST
U.S. lawmakers scrambled on Tuesday to put together a package of trade legislation for quick approval before Congress adjourns for the year.

Bolivia Government, Churh Agree on Schools

Prensa Latina - Havana,Cuba
La Paz, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government assured to the church the functioning of public and private education will be included in the new ...

United States and Bolivia Extend Cultural Property Protection ...
US Dept of State (press release) - Washington,DC,USA
The Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bolivia extended for an additional five year period a Memorandum of ...

Bolivia Truce for Summit Success
Prensa Latina - Havana,Cuba
Cochabamba, Bolivia, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) Twenty-four hours before the opening of the Social Summit for Integration of the Peoples, Bolivians hope to land a ...

Free Market News Network - Pompano Beach,FL,USA
... law. Bolivia’s poor welcome the law; however, experts warn that it could destabilize the nation’s fragile political foundation. ...

Correa Readies First Regional Tour
Prensa Latina - Havana,Cuba
... is returning on Tuesday from his rest in the Galapagos Islands to prepare his first international tour, which will take him to Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia. ...

South American countries agree to eliminate visa requirement for ...
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
... The decision exempts the visa requirement for nationals from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay ...

Once again, a link to articles published by the NYT:

Energy Firms Bow to Demands Set by Bolivia

Foreign energy companies agreed in last-minute talks to operate under state control, a major victory for President Evo Morales.

October 30, 2006

Times Select Content Venezuelan's Diatribe Seen as Fatal to U.N. Council Bid

Both supporters and detractors of President Hugo Chávez say he may have miscalculated in turning the United Nations into his bully pulpit.

October 25, 2006

Times Select Content THE SATURDAY PROFILE; An Urbane Bolivian Politician Who Tries to Bridge 2 Worlds

Vice President Álvaro García Linera of Bolivia has become what he describes as a “ cultural intermediary” in a fractured nation.

October 7, 2006

Times Select Content Bolivian Leaders Find Their Promises Are Hard to Keep

Just nine months into President Evo Morales’ s term, heightening tension is once again threatening to tip Bolivia into turmoil.

September 26, 2006

Times Select Content Bolivia Reaches for a Slice of the Coast That Got Away

Combining nostalgia and nationalism, Bolivia’ s leader is lobbying to regain the Pacific coastline the country lost during its 1879 conflict with Chile.

September 24, 2006

November 27, 2006

Morales Traveled Without Permission, While Bolivia Sinks Deeper into Potential Violence

MABB © ®
Second Update (Nov. 29)
The Bolivian government approved early today (after 24:00) the land reform law. The opposition is crying foul, due to what it considers the betrayal of three opposition Senators from Beni and Pando. Abraham Araujo Cuéllar (Unidad Nacional), Andrés Fermín Heredia Guzmán (Podemos), and Héctor Mario Vargas Rivera (Podemos) completed the quorum needed to pass the land reform bill. Some civic leaders are saying there was a bribe in play.

The bill sets the stage for the state to confiscate without any compensation "unproductive land", with unproductive being defined by the government.

The radicalizaiton of actions is to be expected.

First Update (Nov. 29):
Opposition forces have given the government 72 hours to make amends on the three issues in dispute - land reform, controll over Prefects and the 2/3 voting system in the CA. If the government does not, in the words of the opposition, 'pacify' the country, there will be a 24 hours general strike, starting Friday. Were the government not to make concessions, the strike can become indefinite.

Among the opposition forces are: Podemos, UN and MNR, the civic committees of 8 departments (La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, Tarija, Oruro y Sucre) and the Prefects of the opposition six (La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, Tarija).

Evo Morales is in Holland. This is his first stop on this latest trip which will take him to Nigeria and, of course, Cuba. In Holland he'll meet with Bolivian residents, the Queen, government officials and Shell executives. Moments before boarding the airplane told VP Garcia Linera that he trusted Garcia would solve the problems Morales was leaving behind. After making a short stop in Bolivia on Tuesday, Morales cannot stay outside Bolivia more than 5 days, since he does not have permission of Parliament to travel, he'll go on to the South America - Africa Summit in Nigeria. His final stop will be Cuba to celebrate Fidel's birthday.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Bolivia takes a turn for the worst. The ingredients for violence start to slowly come together. The march to La Paz is nearing its end. There are around 5000 campesinos on their way to La Paz to pressure a favorable vote on the land reform bill. Around 360 indigenous people from the north of La Paz will march today, Monday. The 1835 campesinos of the Indigenous Confederation of the Bolivian East is expected to reach La Paz on Tuesday. Additionally, the 1200 members of the National Council of the Qullasuyo (the Andes region) and the 1500 members of the Unique Worker's Union (CSUTCB) will wait to march on Tuesday. Within the leaders of this march the rhetoric has turned violent. There were many comments made by some leaders as to wanting to force some elite Senators to make the right decision. The emphasis is here on the word force.

At the same time opposition forces have convened a meeting in Cochabamba to form a more cohesive block to pressure the government to make its position on the 2/3 voting system more flexible. Civic representatives of 8 departments (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Cochabamba, Tarija, La Paz, Oruro and Chuquisaca) and the 6 opposition Prefects have confirmed attendance. This meeting has triggered a government forces response. MAS supporters have announced demonstrations and marches to stop this opposition forces meeting. Once again, the rhetoric is radical with some of these leaders threatening with physical violence.

Lastly, the number of people in hunger strike, started by UN leader, Samuel Doria Medina, 12 days ago, has reached 273. People from the Santa Cruz department are the most engaged. This protest has started in direct response to the 2/3 vs. simple majority conflict in the Constituent Assembly. The protest is in favor of the 2/3 model.

The ingredients for violence are slowly comming together with thousands of people from opposite sides meeting in one place. The threat is highest in Cochabamba where the tempers are already high. In the mean time, Morales is outside Bolivia and has left the job to the VP, the person with most radical ideas in the government.

November 22, 2006

A New Period of Conflict in Bolivia

MABB © ®

Clonflict is approaching, once again, in Bolivia. The campesinos in the right are marching to La Paz to force the Senate to approve reforms to the INRA law. The landowners, businessmen and workers in the left are marching in defense of their land and their jobs.

There are three hot issues currently bringing conflict back into the daily lives of all Bolivians. The first reason is the planned reforms to the agrarian reform law, which would result in massive confiscation of land. The second reason is another reform initiative from the part of the government to exert more control over the heads of state governments, the Prefects. The third reason for the current conflict is the passing of article 71 in the internal regulations code of the Constituent Assembly. This article, easily passed by MAS using a not consensuated simple majority vote, would allow every article to be voted by simple majority.

Three issues originating from government moves are the cause of massive mobilizations amongst the opposition forces. The Prefects have formed a block repudiating the proposed reform. A small group is counter proposing a measure where the President can be held accountable by the voters too. On the voting issue in the CA, there are at least 120 people in hunger strike, protesting what they call a MAS rollover. Many assembly delegates are complaining that their presence is not required. However, the most dangerous actions are the mobilizations of hundreds of campesinos on the one side and land owners, businessmen and their workers on the other side. These two groups are heading to a confrontation in the Santa Cruz region. One reason for this confrontation is the repetitive government requests to "defend" government propossed reforms. There is even talk of sending a contingent of people to Santa Cruz to (again) "defend" the government's plans.

November 18, 2006

In the Process to a Dominant Party System

MABB © ®
Yesterday, Friday, November 18, the Constituent Assembly (CA) approved article 71 of the internal regulations document. It says that the CA will approve all reforms to the constitution by absolute majority. That means it would require 128 of 255 votes for the approval of any reform. The exception is that in the end, the whole constitution would have to be approved by 2/3 majority and there is the option of "observing" 3 issues to be reconsidered and then voted with 2/3 majority. The decision was taken to use MAS' majority to approve this controversial measure, in light of the inability to reconcile differences with the opposition.

The graph above shows us the distribution of power within the CA. In it you can see MAS enjoys an ample majority of 137 seats or votes. Comfortably sufficient, in the case of absolute majority, to write the constitution itself. AP reports "LA PAZ, Bolivia - Supporters of leftist President Evo Morales won a key vote at an assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution, allowing them to draft populist reforms without input from opposition parties. The final draft of a new constitution, however, must still be approved by two-thirds of the body. In a heated session Friday at the constitutional assembly, delegates from Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, or MAS, passed a motion requiring the assembly's decisions to be made by a simple majority vote. The party controls 137 of the assembly's 235 seats." At the same time, Silvia Lazarte, President of the CA, said to La Razon: "It is that way brothers, when decisions have to be made, they have to be made."

The opposition, which is in favor of the 2/3 variant of voting, as it was to be expected, is crying out loud, foul! Its numbers, in the present situation, have swelled to 113 seats with 14 political forces. There are strong protests to what they call, the imposition of MAS' will and the irruption of the central government. Already former president candidate for National Unity, Samuel Doria Medina, has started a hunger strike in various locations to protest this decision. The Santa Cruz Civic Committee has expressed its concern and has called next week to a asamblea de la crucenidad (Santa Cruz assembly) to determine in which way will it respond. Other parties and organizations will analyse the problem in their respective headquarters and will respond accordingly. There is a general feeling among opposition forces that their vote does not count and therefore their presence is not necessary in the assembly.

Adding fuel to the fire are the various indigenous and MAS supporter groups already mobilized to "control" the decisions of the CA in Sucre and the groups preparing to go give support to the MAS people in Santa Cruz and sorrounding areas. That is all at the request of the government.

The tensions, as is often in Bolivia, have risen again from one day to the next. The potential for confrontation between governmental forces and opposition is and will be in the next weeks, very high.

On the personal side, I am tending to classify the MAS government as a "Dominant Party System". I've looked it up and found the following definition in Wikipedia (yes, it is possible to find useful things in it):

A dominant-party system, or one party dominant system, is a party system where only one political party can realistically become the government, by itself or in a coalition government. Under what has been referred to as "electoralism" or "soft authoritarianism", opposition parties are legally allowed to operate, but are considered too weak or ineffective to seriously take power. In contrast to single-party systems, which tend to be authoritarian, dominant-party systems can occur within a context of a democratic system. Dominant-party systems have been criticized because corruption and insensitivity to public demands tend to arise for lack of an effective opposition.

A further distinction from a single-party system is that under the latter, other parties cannot compete to become the government because they are banned. Dominant-party systems exist only in states where other political parties are tolerated, but do not receive enough votes to have a realistic chance of winning. However, in some dominant-party systems, opposition parties are subject to varying degrees of official harassment and most often deal with rules and electoral systems (such as gerrymandering of electoral districts) designed to put them at a disadvantage or in some cases outright electoral fraud.

On the other hand, some dominant-party system occur in countries that are widely seen, both by their citizens and outside observers, to be textbook examples of democracy. The reasons why a dominant-party system may form in such a country are often debated: Supporters of the dominant party tend to argue that their party is simply doing a good job in government and the opposition continuously proposes unrealistic or unpopular changes, while supporters of the opposition tend to argue that the electoral system disfavors them (for example because it is based on the principle of first past the post), or that the dominant party receives a disproportionate amount of funding from various sources and is therefore able to mount more persuasive campaigns.

This definition seems to be fitting well to picture where, I think, MAS is heading to. Were the absolute majority vote mode of approval accepted and used, MAS would have all the advantages to approve a constitution without having to talk once with the opposition and compromise in any issue.

November 16, 2006


MABB © ®
The lastest efforts from the government to further their agenda is a proposed bill to controll the prefectural office. As you know, Bolivia's Prefects are the heads of state governments, similar to Governors in the US. Since last December these figures have enjoyed a certain power of independence against the government. According to modifications to the law made during the 2005 crisis, the Prefects started being elected rather than being appointed by the President, as it was the law before. This status brought them more responsibilities and at the same time more independence, which translated into political power.

At the moment, and as a result of last December's elections, there are newly elected Prefects in each of the nine departments. As the graph on the left shows, only three are militants of MAS. The rest are considered to be in the opposition. This situation is not confortable for the government and thus is trying to change it. Now, the Morales government, and more specifically the Vice-minister of Decentralization, wants to propose an amendment to the Administrative Decentralization Law. Such amendment would introduce a mechanism to "interpellate" those Prefects who do not "behave". So, if there is a complain against the Prefect, the problem would be taken to the President, whom in turn would ask the Congress to "Interpellate" the Prefect. If the interpellation is sustained, the Prefect would be forced to resign.

The question is then, is there a need for such an amendment? I think, if the Prefects were elected by popular vote, and if there is a need to somehow exert some control over them in the name of democracy, then periodic elections will do the trick. No need to institutionalize some kind of control mechanism. After all, they are voted by popular vote. What's more democratic than that?

November 10, 2006

Bolivia - Chile Relations

MABB © ®
On the rocky Bolivia-Chile relations of late has been observed a shy turn-around. The two countries have taken carefully planned small steps towards rapprochement. It all started with Evo Morales' visit to Michelle Bachelet's inauguration. The favor was returned by Bachelet coming to Morales' inauguration. Since then there have been elastic exchanges between the two governments. The insistence by Bolivia to include the sea access issue in any talks has been the highest hurdle to pass. However, since Morales abandoned Mesa's approach of "gas for sea", things have been softer. Lately, the head of the Chilean Military visited Bolivia, showing thus an even closer approach.

In this thorned relation, there are two issues demanding the most attention because they are the most delicate. The first issue is the age old Bolivian demand to sea access. This issue has been, as you well know, the cause Bolivia and Chile haven't had formal diplomatic relations in a long time. The other issue is the Silala stream. The Silala is a stream originating in Bolivia which runs to Chile via a channel constructed by the rail company, Ferrocarril Antofagasta, to supply it with water. Bolivia wants compensation for the use of its waters by Chilean companies. These two issues are the most difficult to solve, and are the two huge stones blocking cooperation among the two countries.

Following you can find the new agenda between the two countries:

  1. Desarrollo de confianza (Trust development)
  2. Integración fronteriza (Border integration)
  3. Libre tránsito (Free transit)
  4. Integración física (Physical integration)
  5. Complementación económica (Economic cooperation)
  6. Tema marítimo (Maritime issue)
  7. El Silala y recursos hídricos (The Silala issue and water resources)
  8. Instrumentos de lucha contra la pobreza (Fight against poverty)
  9. Seguridad y Defensa (Security and defense)
  10. Cooperación para el control del tráfico ilícito de drogas y químicos (Cooperation on drug trafficking)
  11. Educación, ciencia y tecnología (Education, science and technology)
  12. Cultura (Culture)
  13. Otros temas (en este punto ingresó el tema energético) (Other- possibly energy)

November 08, 2006

Corruption index: Bolivia

MABB © ®

Just wanted to quickly post this graph, for all to read (for me too). Source: La Razon.

November 04, 2006


MABB © ®
The graph on the left is showing unemployment figures in Bolivia from four different entities. The first comes from the statistics institute, INE. In my opinion this one is the most reliable. But, that's just my opinion. It is funy to notice that the two government agencies have a lower rate than the other two "independent" organizations (independent from the government, I mean). Anyway, the argument of the graph is that unemployment has been decreasing since 2004. As a good economist, I ask myself why?

No time to make of this question a research question, but here go some reflexions. Over the last decade or so, Bolivia's macroeconomy has been relatively stable. For one, inflation, which once plagued the country like famine, has been low and thus kept in check. Another thing, over the same period there has been economic grownt. I remember to have read, somewhere, that Bolivia grew at a 3% on average. Exports were fantastic, in the same period. Alone, hydrocarbons were a major source of dollars. So good was the situation that savings in Bolivianos started to replace savings in dollars. So, macroeconomically, Bolivia was going relatively good.

In comes this government in January 2006. And no, I won't say everything went south. In fact, things got even better. There were a couple of things which added to the situation. For one, the debt relif Bolivia got from its creditors such as the international credit organizations and governments like the Spanish, who forgave Bolivia's foreign debt. This was a significant push to bring more macro stability and set this government on the right foot. Problems in the deficit were more directly affected. This year, for the first time in a long, long time, Bolivia will have a surplus instead of a deficit. That is really extraordinary. Also, not having to make payments on the deb, is a significant developlemt. That means more money in the government's pockets. Of course, the government started to receive more dollars from the nationalization and the new conditions in the natural gas sector. So, the government has more money. That alone is a special situation unlike any other government in history. Lastly, the Morales goverment is receiving money (or shall I say help) from the Venezuelan government. Chavez is being very generous with Bolivia funding projects left and right. For example he is paying to establish a national radio network to bring radio to the four corners of the country. Another thing Chavez is doing is he is buying Bolivian debt and he is buying Bolivian products such as soya. That also brings more money to the government's pockets. Morales has even asked every MAS member working in the government and every other functionary working in the government to pay into a fund in support to the party, MAS.

The question is what is the Morales government doing with so much money. Well, here is my scepticism taking over. Morales and his government are using the money to fund populist policies designed to keep their supporters happy and him in power. He has offered employment to the rebel cooperatives in Huanuni to appease them and bring them to his side. He is paying out a "bonus" to every child in Bolivia. He keeps paying out the solidary bonus to the elderly. He is spending lots of money alone in the nationalization of the companies and the restarting of the national energy company, YPFB.

These examples do not amount to a significant percentage of the national budget, but they are examples of his tendency to spend to keep support alive. The problem with this is that is might not be a sustainable way. Yes, Bolivia has some dollars now, but what about in the next years, decades? It is my opinion that one of the reasons unemployment is tending to go down is because of Morales' populist policies. And the problem with populist policies is the they tend to be short-sighted. They might be good to keep public support, but they make no economic sense. In other words, most of the time, they are not sustainable. And that is the key word here, sustainability. The country must be able to keep on generating income, just like anyone. It cannot continue spending without worrying about from where is the next dollar going to come.

At present time, this does not look good. The only significant source of income for Bolivia seems to be natural gas. Bolivia cannot stay dependent on a commodity, we know what happens then. The diversification of the economy is also a priority. This is what makes income sustainable.

November 02, 2006

Decentralization or Regionalism

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The Morales government has made public its proposal to modify the decentralization scheme in Bolivia. According to Fabián Yaksic, Vice-minister of Decentralization, the new structure would entail, 9 departments, 42 autonomic regions, 327 municipalities, and a yet unidentified number of territorial indigenous organizations.

What is new, is the division of the Bolivian territory in 42 autonomic regions. This would introduce a new level of territorial division between the departmental level (or in the US case, the state level) and the municipal level (in the US, the local level).

I wonder if the government has paid attention to the extensive literature about the Bolivian experience with decentralization. I have, and if there is one conclusion that stands out, is the fact that in the current situation, there is deficiency in the coordination work between the departmental governments and the municipal governments. They just do not communicate with eachother. In fact, there are some studies contending that the departmental level of government or prefecture (as it is called in Bolivia) hinders the work of the municipal government. I am thinking, how is one more level going to help?

I am tending to agree on this one with the Prefect of Santa Cruz. He sais that the plans of the government are to rest power from the prefect by dividing the department into regions. So, politically motivated reforms to an issue like the decentralization process where it is also necessary to pay attention to technical issues, are not useful.

November 01, 2006

The New Contract With the Energy Companies

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Really quick, I wanted to post this La Razon graph depicting the new conditions affecting the energy companies' operations in Bolivia.

I haven't looked at it in detail, but on the fly I am thinking, if the companies agreed to this conditions, if they agreed to keep investing, and if they said this deal is benefitial for them. Also, if the deal is benefitial for Bolivia, I'd say, way to go Evo.

October 29, 2006

A New Way to Search

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Once in a while, when I find something interesting or amusing in the net, I like to pass it along to my readers. This time it is something very amusing. At least, I think so. It's a new way to do searches that, if I have the right info, was conceptualized by Microsoft, in its efforts to win some space for its own search engine. Please, check it out and come back to MABB to tell us your reactions. We'll be waiting!

October 25, 2006

Morales May Confirm His "Toy" Status

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Very fresh developments, because Venezuela (Chavez and Co.) cannot gain 2/3 support for its candidacy to the UN Security Council this year, Chavez has proposed Evo Morales to take Venezuela's place in the elections.

According to the governmental news agency, Morales talked to Chavez who told him he will propose Bolivia as replacement candidate for the UN Security Council seat.

“Anoche me llamó el embajador, primero, y segundo el comandante Chávez y me dice que como no ha podido Venezuela conseguir dos tercios para el Consejo de Seguridad y el compañero Hugo Chávez dice que para buscar consenso él deja la candidatura a Bolivia”

Bolivia says it may be a U.N. candidate
AP via Yahoo! News Tue, 24 Oct 2006 7:30 PM PDT
Bolivia's president said Tuesday that his country could emerge as an alternative candidate for a seat on the U.N. Security Council to break the deadlock between Venezuela and U.S.-backed Guatemala.

Venezuela ponders passing Security Council bid to Bolivia Tue, 24 Oct 2006 6:35 PM PDT
The president of Bolivia announced that his country may have a chance at obtaining a much coveted spot on the U.N. Security Council, the body within the United Nations charged with maintaining global peace and security.

Guatemala says won't make way for Bolivia in U.N. bid
Reuters via Yahoo! News Tue, 24 Oct 2006 6:27 PM PDT
Guatemala, locked in a struggle with Venezuela for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, said on Tuesday it would not back down to make way for Bolivia as a possible compromise candidate.

Venezuela to give up UN candidacy for Bolivia: Morales
AFP via Yahoo! News Tue, 24 Oct 2006 4:49 PM PDT
Venezuela has agreed to drop out of the hotly contested race for Latin America's open seat on the UN Security Council and asked Bolivia to run in its place, Bolivia's president said.

Chavez asks Bolivia to run for U.N. seat
The Washington Times Tue, 24 Oct 2006 9:55 PM PDT
From combined dispatches LA PAZ, Bolivia -- As the U.N. General Assembly prepared to resume voting to fill a two-year-term open Security Council seat, Bolivian leftist President Evo Morales announced that his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has agreed to drop out of the hotly contested race with Guatemala for the seat and has asked Bolivia to run in its place, "Comrade Chavez says that to

Bolivia President:Would Be Backed By Venezuela President In UN Bid
Nasdaq Tue, 24 Oct 2006 4:41 PM PDT
CARACAS (AP)--Bolivia's president said Tuesday that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez would throw his support behind the Andean country if Venezuela is unable to win enough votes to defeat U.S.-backed Guatemala for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Venezuela to give up UN candidacy for Bolivia: Morales
New Kerala Tue, 24 Oct 2006 10:42 PM PDT
La Paz (Bolivia), Oct 25: Venezuela has agreed to drop out of the hotly contested race for Latin America's open seat on the UN Security Council and asked Bolivia to run in its place, Bolivia's president has said.

Chavez supports Bolivia in seeking UN Security Council seat: Bolivian president
People's Daily Tue, 24 Oct 2006 6:58 PM PDT
Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Tuesday that his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez had agreed to support Bolivia in the race for the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, according to reports from the Bolivian capital La Paz.

Venezuela to give up UN candidacy for Bolivia: Morales
Channel NewsAsia Tue, 24 Oct 2006 3:30 PM PDT
LA PAZ : Venezuela has agreed to drop out of the hotly contested race for Latin America's open seat on the UN Security Council and asked Bolivia to run in its place, Bolivia's president said on Tuesday.

My question is, will Bolivia confirm its status as Chavez's "toy" by going along with this proposal or will it take this opportunity to increase Bolivia's international status?

A synical view would be to expect that, one, Chavez hasn't thought of this because he has the interest of Bolivia in mind. Presumably, he has an agenda and he has seen this move as another way to realize it. Not in the interest of Bolivia, but in his own interest. And two, he can chose to play the "solidarity" role and do everything Chavez wants him to do. In a way, representing Chavez in the seat. The alternative would be to
go the independent way, and use this opportunity to further the interests of Bolivia and the region.