January 25, 2006

Congress and Government Take Shape

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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.