January 04, 2006

An Interesting Discussion

MABB © ®

Just wanted to mention that fellow Bolivian blogger and author of Ciao!, Miguel Centellas was a guest in a radio program called Latin America's New Socialism. Miguel got to share the microphone with economist Jeffry Sachs. They talked about Bolivia, the present political situation and Evo Morales, of course.

Personally, I thought Jeffry Sachs should stick to economic analysis, rather than venture into politics. Miguel, on the other hand, said many interesting things. The one thing I did not agree with him when he first said it and still don't quite agree, is that he thinks the country (Bolivia) is heading towards secession.

My take is that secession is not even a question. Things would have to brake down completely for Santa Cruz and the other departments (what Miguel calls the media luna region) to seceed.

But, a very interesting conversation. You can listen to it here. And here is the podcast.

Kudos to Miguel!


Anonymous said...

What about Jim Shultz, wasn't he on the program?

mcentellas said...

Oh, just to clarifly, I don't think Bolivia is *headed* towards secession. Just that it's a possibilty. I wanted to emphasize that, unlike most media coverage, Bolivia is not all Andean mountains & llamas. Evo has a rough road ahead not because of the US, IMF, or "world capitalism", but also (and most) because of internal domestic politics. So while secession isn't a probably outcome, I do think it's a possible outcome.

I just get tired of hearing people assume that "ALL" Bolivians voted for Evo, they ALL oppose neoliberalism, etc. Bolivia is a diverse country w/ people who think many different things. And many of hte people who oppose Evo are regionally clustered, and have shown their willingness to entertain secessionist rhetoric (look at the new Santa Cruz prefect!).

Alexey said...

Sachs raised important economy-related points during the discussion. I find insightful his comments on the natural barriers to Andean economy towards the beginning of the show. Not less important, he finds that there are sound reasons to change the contracts signed with the oil and gas companies. In particular, the discovery of massive gas reserves brings about a very different context from the time of contract signing. I am curious about the politic comments he raised that you find of doubtful quality.

I was disappointed that Sachs and Shultz didn't debate about Goni's government, since they have such different views of him. I guess this is my dark side asking for circus :).

I appreciated Miguel's comments about the importance of internal politics for this government. It is something that this show hardly emphasized. At some moments, Miguel was being too technical, so I (and undoubtedly most of the audience) had trouble following.

MABB said...

Yes, he was. Sorry. I just concentrated on what Miguel and Sachs said.

MABB said...

Yes, I agree with Miguel that secession is a possibility, as possible as guerrilla or a successful performance by this government.

I think that people look at Bolivia in a not so unrealistic way. After all the majority of citizens are indigenous. If you add to these all the mestizos, you have (in the eyes of foreigners) a nation predominantly indigenous. The light skinned minority is almost insignificant, in numbers. I think that is why people talk about Bolivia as being a nation of indigenous. People see an indigenous majority and Evo Morales getting 54% of the votes, and they think everyone supports Morales.

Also, while there are many like in Sta. Cruz who might not have voted for Evo, if you look at the votes he got in Sta. Cruz, personally I am amazed. I did not think he would get 33% of votes.

Let's see:

Sta. Cruz: 33
Tarija: 32
Beni: 16
Pando: 21

These are states I thought MAS would not do well.

This is the kind of thing which would lead occasional observers to conclude everyone in Bolivia voted for Morales.

While I agree, there is diversity, to the occasional observer it would be clear to conclude that Morales was supported by all Bolivians.

One doubt I have is: Whas he or was he not?

MABB said...

That is what I meant when I said Sachs should stick to economics. I think he has good understanding of the Bolivian case, but his understanding of Bolivian politics could be better.

Once again, like Miguel said, I find Sachs one of those people who think that every one supports Morales and all oppose neoliberalism. As you might know, that is not really true. His view of Bolivian politics is dangerously simplified. That is why I thought Miguel's insighful comments brought a bit of soberness to the discussion. Plus, I wonder how much more Sachs was involved in the Bolivian case. Since his famous advise to the Bolivian government not to pay the debt, he has been only marginally involved. Of course I don't know exactly but I conclude this by my reading of Sachs' recent projects.

One more thing. I thought that Miguel and Sachs' discussion on the oncoming Constituent Assembly was right on the money. In my view, that'll be the next big thing in Bolivia. whatch out for some serious trouble there.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi Miguel,

Just to say I just gave you a hat-tip link:


Miguel said...

Thanks Edward. Interesting comment on the possible unintended result of the Spanish right's move on Zapatero's gov't. As you point it out, they might have even helped Zapatero. How ironic.

Tupicetti said...

Hey, thanks for putting the link. I just found your blog and, although it may be a bit late, would like to add my two cents. One indeed. I guess that one of the questions that stands in the air for Sachs is whether he still believes in market economy, which he seems to do, and why? It is interesting how the discussion is centered in the rightness or wrongness of the models. Hasn't he, or anybody else for that matter, seen already too many screw ups done by these models? I guess this point I am trying to make can also be dismissed as populist as it was, certainly, part of the argument to take a leftist discourse. Why is that is too hard to be a leftist (it seems that most of the participants have a particular idea about how the proper leftist should be)?
I think Miguel is right when he warns us about the possibility of seccession. Now, more than ever, the structure of the nation is collapsing and depends, critically, on the adequate use of resources. Here, I see, is the problem, because what can be adequate for one might not be for another. Believe Miguel, and me, on this, there are many interests on the resources that makes it the hardest.

Miguel said...

Hi tupicetti, thanks for speaking up.

Yes you are right when you say that the current economic models do not have a good record. We only have to see the Bolivian case to find an example. Good macro stability but on the social and political areas, a disaster. No good results what so ever.

However, if you analyse whether these models have been implemented as they should be. They have not. I think that is one of the main reasons these models have not had the desired or expected results. It is not enough to apply just one part of the theroy and leave the others aside. The models are a whole and should be seen as a holistic entity. For example, in Bolivia the restructuring was concentrated in stabilizing the macroeconomic situation, but the subsequent governments did not have the political will or ability to pursue the rest of the reforms prescribed by the model. Or if they did, political interests came in the way and slowed the process to a crawl. As we can see with the trade issue or the tax collection in Bolivia.

So, is short, Bolivia has not given a serious attempt at implementing the whole program. Halfways is not the way, as we have seen.

As far as cesession, I don't really see the structure of the country collapsing. And yes, right now is might be difficult to see, and who knows what is going to happen in the next months. I would not pretend to know whether Bolivian society is on the verge of collapse, but as far as I can see, it seems pretty stable.

Finally, yes, there a many interests on Bolivian resources. We have antagonistic interests trying to take advantage of the resources. On the one side are the capitalist transnationals and on the other side is populist Chavez.

These might be important factors influencing the dinamics on the resource issue in Bolivia.