January 25, 2006

Congress and Government Take Shape

MABB © ®

In one of my posts I briefly mentioned that one of the most inmediate issues Morales would have to attend is the structure of his government and that of the Congress. Now, Morales looks to have a good handle on his cabinet and for certain he has partial control of Congress. In the last few days (January 16) the new congress was inaugurated with a "renovation" rate of about 90%. That is, 17 out of 157 legislators have not been able to keep their seats. Almost everyone in congress is new to legislative politics. Talking about "renovation".

With that in mind, we also know that MAS has a majority in the lower chamber and a not so minor minority in the Senate. As a result, Morales' party was able to secure the presidency in both cameras for itself. While the presidency in the lower chamber was assured, MAS had to negotiate the one in the upper chamber and thanks to the help of the two senators, one from UN and the other from MNR, MAS got the necessary votes to secure the upper chamber's presidency. So, the president of the lower chamber is Edmundo Novillo (MAS) and of the Senate is Santos Ramirez (MAS). Now all that remains is to settle on the structure of the senate, which should be negotiated and in accrodance to the house rules.

The Congress' structure is as follows:

Senate -
The upper chamber has six seats making up the leadership (president, two vice-presidents and three secretaries). It also has 11 commissions and 10 committees.

Deputies' Chamber -
The lower chamber has seven seats making up the leadership (president, two vice-presidents and four secretaries). It also has 12 commissions and 30 committees

Once the distribution of spacial power is negotiated, Congress will be able to start working on the agenda. Evo Morales has made it clear he will start as soon as possible to work on changing the "neo-liberal" economic model currently implemented in Bolivia, the resource nationalization process, the Constituent Assembly, etc.

Moreover, Morales has already started working on the structure of the executive power. He has recently declared he will maintain the number of ministries at 16, with some changes on the goals, areas, names and objectives. Additionally, Morales has recently been handed the reports of the three "transitional commissions" (politic, social and economic) created to asses and put forward a plan of transition toward government. These commissions have found out that one of the worst problems within the executive is the high dependency of its organisms to organisms of the international cooperation. The report expresses that the degree of dependency is worrysome, to the extent that some vice-ministries have no financial support form the Bolivian government and totally depend on donations from the international cooperation community.

Morales has been troubled by this result and has expressed his desire to, in his words "nationalize government". That is to create a government structure entirely dependent on the resources of the Bolivian government. Among other restructuring plans, Morales' government wants to get rid of the so called "special delegations". These delegations have the task to work on a specific area, for example corruption. It is precisely this delegation which Morales wants to eliminate because he feels it has not achieved much in its short existance, while the costs (around US$ 8 million per year) are too much for the government to bear.

What impact will these decisions have? only time will say. Corruption is an endemic problem in Bolivia. One which will not be easy to eliminate.

Morales' Cabinet

David Choquehuanca Céspedes, Canciller de la República (State Department).
Autodidact and has a diploma in "Right of the indigenous peoples" from the Cordillera University. He attended a course in Anthropology and History in CIDES, UMSA, La Paz. Democratic activist during the 1970s dictatorship. Consultant to the peasant movements. The last 15 years he worked in the Nina peasant education project, funded with French funds.

Juan Ramón Quintana, Ministro de la Presidencia (Ministry of the Presidency).
Retired Mayor from the military academy, Gualberto Villarroel. Researcher on national security. Sociologist with studies in Philosophy and Politics at the UMSA, La Paz. Consultant in security issues, defense and police. Director of the Observatorio Seguridad y Democracia (Security and Democracy Observatory).

Alicia Muñoz Alá, Ministra de Gobierno (Ministry of Government).
Anthropologist and former member of Congress. Former journalist in radio and former director of women and family; former president of the Democratic Women's Federation of Bolivia; former member of the departmental council on culture (Oruro); university professor of Anthropology at the Technical Oruro University and former president of the employment commission in Congress.

Walker San Miguel Rodríguez, Ministro de Defensa Nacional (Defence Ministry).
Constitutionalist lawyer. Former professor and director of Gaceta Juridica (law publication). Director in LAB (Bolivian airlines). President of the Bar Association of Attorneys.

Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, Ministro de Hacienda (Finance Ministry).
Economist (UMSA), Accountant and Master in Economics from Warwick, England. He worked 18 years in the Central Bank of Bolivia (International Operations Department). Professor in several state and private universities in Bolivia.

Carlos Villegas Quiroga, Ministro de Desarrollo Sostenible, Encaragado de Planificación de Desarrollo (Ministry of Sustainable Development).
Economist and Director of the doctoral program in Development at the UMSA, La Paz. Former professor of economics in Bolivia and Mexico.

Celinda Sosa Lunda, Ministra de Desarrollo Económico, Encargada de Producción y Microempresas (Ministry of Economic Development).
Former leader of the Peasant Women's Federation. Adviser on the creation of micro-enterprises (textiles, honey, eggs).

Salvador Ric Riera, Ministro de Servicios y Obras Públicas (Ministry of Services and Public Works).
Doctor in Diplomacy and private entreprenour. He has businesses in import of cars and parts, he owns several retail businesses.

Andrés Soliz Rada, Ministro de Hidrocarburos (Hydrocarbons Ministry).
Journalist and Lawyer. Former Deputy and Senator for the political party, Condepa (Fatherland Conscience). Executive Secretary of the Journalist Association and Vice-president of the Latin American Journalists Association.

Wálter Villarroel Morochi, Ministro de Mineria y Metalurgia (Mining and Metalwork Ministry).
He was a miner in Comibol (the Bolivian mining company) until 1985 and in 2004 he became leader of the mining federation, Fencomin.

Félix Patzi Paco, Ministro de Educación y Cultura (Ministry of Education and Culture).
Studied Sociology in UMSA and is a Master in Rural Development and Doctor in Culture and Identities. Professor of sociology and education in UMSA, La Paz and since 2004, director of the Sociologic Research Institut.

Nila Heredia Miranda, Ministra de Salud y Deportes (Minstry of Health and Sports).
Surgical Doctor, former Vice-president of UMSA and former director of the Health Department. Currently university professor and President of Latin American Federation of Associations of Dissappeared and Detained People.

Santiago Alex Galvez Mamani, Ministro de Trabajo (Ministry of Employment).
Studied Business Administration and Accounting and has 27 years of working experience. Former Executive Secretary of the Factory Worker's Federation and since 2003 national secretary of the same union.

Hugo Salvatierra Gutiérrez, Ministro de Asuntos Campesinos, Indígenas y Agropecuarios (Minstry of Peasant Affairs, Indigenous People and Agriculture).
Lawyer, activist and leader for social justice. In the December elections was candidate for the Prefecture representing MAS.

Casimira Rodríguez Romero, Ministra sin cartera Responsable de Justicia (Ministry of Justice).
From age 13, she worked as maid. Victim of fisical, mental and sexual abuse. Worked two years without being paid. Leader of the house workers union. She help enact the first law regulating the worker's rights of house workers.

Abel Mamani, Ministro sin Cartera Responsable de Agua (Ministry for Water).
Studied three years Odontology, made other technical studies and became carpenter. As a young student he was the leader of the student federation in his province. In 2004 became leader of FEJUVE-El Alto, having a major role in the resignation of Carlos Mesa.

Some opposition already

The first controversy is on Abel Mamani, the former leader of FEJUVE-El Alto. Now, Mamani is in the middle of recriminations and investigations steming from his own organization. The FEJUVE-El Alto is against his nomination as minister and want to formally ask Morales to make a better pick. Apparently, Mamani did not tell his followers he was going to take a post as minister in Morales' cabinet.

The same kind of problems is facing Walte Villarroel. Apparently he has lost the support and confidence of his organization. The current leaders are insisting they want a new minister of mining. But they are not saying too many details on why.

The most objectionalble of all, though is the nomination of the journalist Andres Soliz Rada as Minister of Hydrocarbons. Soliz Rada has a reputation of a hard core anti-neoloberal and anti-privatization, at the same time that he has the custom of expresing himself in not so diplomatic ways. His critics point to his near-absolute inexperience, other than critizice.


Jonathan said...

Great job summarizing the cabinet for the foreign audience. Now, I won't go into analyzing these people's curriculums... God knows I'm biased against those who rest their wheight solenly on their "grass roots" activism. However I'll mention that Morales has shot himself in the foot by appointing some of these characters, and he's already forced to defend himself at this early stage -not against la derecha per se, but against his own base- take the example of the new minister of mines (see further details here: http://www.comunica.gov.bo/cgi-bin/index.cgi?h20060124170743) and the lot of cooperativistas and eventually the COB itself turned against him.

A second issue that will come back to hunt him, relates to his military command, he has effectivly forced the retirement of three generations of four stars. (The Mesa and Rodriguez governements, which appointed new commands despite their short period of rule, are also at fault for this) (See more here: http://www.hoybolivia.com/news.php?seccion=78&d3=30659)

Is Evo trying to create his own "generation" inside the army? He may be taking a lesson from Chavez in this regard -who also flushed down a lot of ranking officers (many US-trained) in order to prevent another coup and wanting his own men in charge- or from Bolivian history itself, when the MNR (52) and later Banzer (73) created their own movimiento generacional in the armed services.

Finally, with regards to Soliz Rada, I respect him as a dedicated researcher and even historian, but he is as hardcore pro-nationalization as you can get.

Anonymous said...

There are way too many generals for such an small army, I think this is a good fisrt step in changing the structure of command.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous the decision was clearly more political than strategic. The positions they occupied will not be eliminated, only filled with new (lesser ranked, lesser experienced, and according to internal procedures lesser qualified) people. Who will in turn speed up their own tenure process and become generals in a few more years. Nothing changes.

culito blanco said...

Nice summary. I actually think Soliz Rada was an excellent choice for Energy Minister. This sends a clear message of change and national sovereignty in this strategic sector.

And it reverses the trend of appointing former energy sector executives who may have had closer ties to the foreign companies than to Bolivia's interest. The priority at this stage is to get the facts straight, and negotiate a better deal. Once YPFB is reconstituted and foreign companies are routinely paying fair taxes, it might be a good idea to bring in someone more knowledgeable of the industry itself.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to point out some few things. First, the critique against the newly formed cabinet came out with the cabinet and, of course, some of them pointed out that the denominations are of political nature. I wonder which one was not? Even the most institutionalized structures will only work when they share political goals that, ultimately, will define the success or failure of this or any other administration. Of course, president Morales now needs people of his trust to carry on with his program.
Second, I disagree with the portrait of Soliz Rada, whose "reputation of a hard core anti-neoloberal and anti-privatization, at the same time that he has the custom of expresing himself in not so diplomatic ways". This, to me, seems very simplistic. It seems that, at this point, to ask which are the best diplomatic ways and whether they worked out in getting some of the most serious problems solved. I would say that there is none; basically, diplomacy cannot be equated with a normativity of conducing politics, especially those concerned with touchy issues like re-negotiation of abusive contracts. Whose experience worked better? maybe Tuto's, whose rethoric of dialogue with transnational capitals and dependency on external aid (economically and diplomatic) led us to a massive privatization and lame concessions of resources?. It is funny, I thought that most of the people who supported, in the elections and ideologically, Morales shared his interests to take a different stand regarding the natural resources and their exploitation (i.e. gas or other).
When Mexico's Fox announces that supports the free trade agreements, it is commonly called (successful) diplomacy, when countries like Bolivia, Venezuela or any other (even Brazil) disagree with these issues, it is called bad foreign politics and nasty diplomatic ways. So, regardless the usually ardent speech that Soliz Rada held against privatization he will now need to make effective policies that will allow him to negotiate in a more favorable field, and that is through dialogue with different stakeholders.
Finally, I want to call everybody's attention to a recent interview that Jorge Ramos, a well known reporter and anchor of Univision, the hispanic TV network, had with Evo Morales (http://www.erbol.com.bo/25-01-06EvoUnivisi%F3n.htm). I found the interview really disrespectful, not only to the president but mainly to people. Ramos, a rightwing ally of the anti-castrists Cubans residing in Florida, clearly seeks a confrontational stand only to disqualify president Morales as a US ally. The main point of this interview seems to emphasize, once again and on and on, the idea that those who represent a treath to US interest are doomed.

Miguel said...

Very original name, culito blanco! I actually think is kind of cool.

While I agree with you that this is, by any measure, a 180° turn from earlier practices and it really highlights the word "change", I still think that the appointment of Solis Rada was not in the best interest of Bolivia.

Not, when we know he has no experience in public administration, we know it is easier to play opposition than to govern and we also know that with an adversarial attitude one cannot negotiate successfully in the international arena.

I doubt he will get the facts straight, unless you think that the facts are: nationalization and more nationalization.

You really think those companies are going to stay if the government confiscates their property? (I have read some proposals from Solis Rada and they are leaning towards that)

I just think that in order to manage the natural resources in Bolivia, make decisions on what to make of them and negotiate contracts with people who have been doing that for a living (negotiation) for years, Bolivia needs someone who has those skills and not an oppinionated journalist.

Miguel said...


I agree with your first point. Every president gets to appoint their own cabinet. That's why those people are called "political appointees". The difference is what criteria each president uses to pick his "people". What some presidents do is to look at the skills and experience of the suggested people (assuming the suggestions already took care of the politics of the person, right). Other presidents, as I think in the case of Morales, he not only looked at the experience and skills of "some" of the appointees, but he actually based some of his decisions soley on politics and perhaps on a bit of trust. This is the case, I think, of Solis Rada. He has not experience whatsoever on public management nor on the hydrocarbons sector. I personally think, as you may imagine already, this was a poor choice.

On your second point, as I said it above, I think Solis has no experience in public management (minister of hydrocarbons), being a stounch and oppinionated critic does not automatically turn him into an expert, and he has (at least, not to my knowledge) no experience negotiating such contracts. What makes you think, he'll do a much better job than his predecesors? Leaving aside politics, one needs much more than a good heart and a sharp tongue to negotiate contracts. Specially at the international level, against people who have experience, much more experience.

On one thing I do agree with you, again, leaving politics aside, the negotiators who signed those contracts up to now, were really not much more successfull. In fact, they were plain lousy. Otherwise, Bolivia would be reaping benefits instead of loosing money. On the other hand, we do have to accept that the environment in which those negotiations are carried out and those deals are made are not favorable to smaller, poor countries like Bolivia. As we all already know, poor countries do seem to come into the negotiations with a disadvantage.

And, no, the field is not leveled. I don't think Solis Rada will be much successful.

And on the infamous interview. I do agree with you that Jorge Ramos blew it big time. In fact, I think he just did not have the calibre as a journalist to make such an important interview. I almost think that Ma. Elena Salinas would have been far better. Ramos just lost his control, the control of the interview and went after Morales openly, which is exactly what a good journalist should not do. He made his biases so obvious.

I think that going after Morales would be almost too easy. So easy that if you want to do it, you'd have to be very careful of not looking in the end like a butt-head like Ramos did.

I say it would be easy, because, taking in to account that morales did not finish school, if you start talking about text book definitions of democracy, historical events and their significance, or things of that sort, you are more than likely to make Morales confused. Morales says it himself, he is a simple man and sees life through those simple eyes. Granted he has experience as politician, but I think his ideology is very simple.

Anyway, I thought the one who lost there was Ramos, and not Morales.

Boli-Nica said...

Soliz Rada is a dogmatic clown, whose ignorance was on full display recently when he griped about a recent SEC filing made by Repsol, which listed gas reserves from its Bolivian operations as "assets" a standard practice, not only by gas companies, but by just about any company which has any sort of executory contract which it must assign a value to.

Anonymous said...

Hey Miguel,
I share most of your points. One point I would like to take issue, however, is the referred to the presumed easiness of fooling Morales or any other people under the assumption of a lack of or incomplete education. Doesn't it make you look like Ramos in a way?
I would say that that is precisely what Ramos thought before the interview. You know, how hard it could be fooling somebody with pretensious academic jargon? just few (technical) academic terms (book definitions) will make it. There is precisely where he had it wrong. Simpleness does mean idiotness and without trying to romaticize Morales' populism nor his rethoric I would say that he has shown his experience, gained in several other debates as he was campaigning. Remember that the Bolivian media has tried to put him through crossfire more than once and he survived well. I don't know. I just think that Ramos was too arrogant and insulting.

miguel said...

Yes, I am sure that is what Ramos thought. But, let me make myself more clear.

I do agree Morales has experience, and that through experience (that is political experience) he has evolved to become a real politician. However, when you start throwing terms like "democracy" and start asking people to define them, even academicians have trouble doing it.

For example, Ramos asked Morales if he thought Cuba was a democracy. Morales tried to dodge the question, yet he said he did think Cuba was a democracy. To which, Ramos made a very obvious buffled face.

I guess what I mean is that it would be easy to make Morales do mistakes when you start asking him what does he understand by democracy and democratic institutions. Or, even if you start talking to him about the virtues of morality.

Like you say, Morales thinks in simple terms, because he comes from a simple place. For him things may come down to whether people have enough to eat every day, and period.

And, I have not seen tough interviews by the Bolivian press to Morales. Because, after all, it is important to know what does a lider understand by terms like democracy or liberties or rights and responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Hey Miguel,
Here again. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for taking your time to clarify things for me too. I guess the bottomline argument here, which is the one I am trying to debunk, is the very notion that concepts as democracy, liberties, rights or responsabilities should have a static definition (i.e. a correct one, which speaks of a particular system of values and beliefs implicit in the definition and understanding of the concepts). Well, I think they should not. One thing that I see as positive in this 'unframing of concepts' is that this very fact opens the possibility of redefining such terms.
One more thing I would to say. I did not mean that Morales thinks simple (or in a simplistic way for that matter) and I wouldn't like to reduce Evo's thinking to basic instincts. Far from thinking the dupla Evo-Alvaro as the populist-activist and the intellectual, which is something the media was prompted to emphasize, I consider that both need to be seen in equal planes; after all Evo didn't get there by the hand of Alvaro.
I guess we got too used to think and legitimize certain concepts and terms that we come to see them as dogma sometimes and, let me tell you, democracy has become a dogmatic thing thus far.

Miguel said...

Not at all. Thank you for visiting MABB and expressing your oppinion. As I said it before, I think that blogs without commentaries lack a very important component. I also think that with respect and a bit of tolerance, people can have a constructive exchange.

Yes, while you are right when you say that defining terms like democracy, etc. in a specific way necessarily brings certain system of values and beliefs, we differ in thinking that that is not the way to do it.

I think certain values and beliefs are universal in nature. Take liberty for example. No one in the entire world would like to be deprived of their liberty in any way, shape or form. Another example is the concept of rights. While this concept has been only defined in recent times, no one disputes the validity of the universal declaration of human rights now. Even in traditional societies like the Incas and Aymaras, the concepts of liberty and rights were present. Yes, not exactly defined as in Europe, but they were present and very similar (I would tend to say). So, some concepts are universal. By the very universality of the concepts, the definitions become also universal.

On the other had, when we open these definitions to interpretation or as you say, we unframe the concepts, we also run the serious risk of distortion. So, in this manner, we find a Fidel Castro saying that Cuba is a democraticly governed country. Or you find a Chavez who also says that his country is democratic and that liberties and rights are being respected. When we know very well what is going on with those "comites bolivarianos" and those tax payers' lists.

Well, yes, I also don't mean to diminish Morales' capacity as a movement leader. He is certainly a capable man, otherwise he would not have gotten where he is today. Having said that, we cannot deny Evo's limitations. Compared to other statesmen -and then again here you and me are judging with "western" standards" partly because that's what we know- Evo has a pretty simple view of the world. That is all I mean.

And, please, by no means I am trying to establish either superiority or inferiority of people who do not have education. Far from that, I am stating it more as a pragmatic proposition.

One last thing. Evo Morales has gotten there also because of the movements. His party, MAS, is what the movements call a "political instrument". Long time ago, about 10 years ago, these people realized or someone told them, that in order to gain access to the power structure they needed to play by the rules and compete in the system. So they (Evo and others) decided to acquire a means of access to the system. They founded the movement's political instrument, Movement Toward Socialism. It is this, desire to gain access to the power sphere that to a large extent drives all the different groups together. Now what we are observing is the culmination of this effort.