February 09, 2006

Every One Seems to be Wanting Something from Bolivia

MABB © ®

While the next item in the agenda seems to be coming into full attention, Constitutional Assembly, there also seems to continue that wave of international attention Bolivia got right after the elections. More so now, I think, the attention is more due to the unclear (whether deliberate or not) positions from the new government in most issues. Although, I have to say, the president is really trying to keep Bolivia in the news map. Lately he has accused the big energy companies operating in Bolivia and some politicians from the oposition (PODEMOS) of conspiracy against his government. Morales has said that he has proof, including photos, conveniently supplied by the government of Hugo Chavez through the Bolivian military, of arms movements for unknown reason which point out to the conclusion that someone was conspiring against his young government.

For example, the US government is asking and will continue pressing for Bolivia to continue with the Coca eradication programs. The US government will not only speak with its mouth, but also with its wallet, by threatening to cut almost 96% of financial aid to Bolivia. In turn the Bolivian government is calling for the US government and Congress to consider carefully its decision because it could affect the government's efforts to fight against drug trafficking. Also, aside from the Venezuelan government seeking to entangle Bolivia into a close alliance, the Brazilian government is seeking to get closer too. In recent days, a member of president Lula Da Silva's international relations council has met with Morales to express the Brazilian intention and hopes to establish a broad and closer cooperation relationship with Bolivia. These cooperation will cover areas such as education, health, agriculture and of course, energy. At roughly the same time, the Spanish Minister for External Relations, spoke of closer politic and economic cooperation between the Spanish and the Bolivian governments. Hopeful that the negotiations between the Morales government and the Spanish energy company Repsol are going well, he stressed the decision of the Spanish government to exchange Bolivian debt for education.

In the near future, the Secretary for the Andean Community will meet with Morales to speak about the andean energy integration project. This is a project that will contribute to the development of the Bolivian energy resources and the creation of more jobs, said the secretary. Within the framework, the community of Andean nations would try to coordinate their energy policy together. And finally, the Chilean government said that it is looking forward and it will be honored to receive (with hope) the visit of President Morales for the inauguration of Chile's recent elections winner and future president, Michelle Bachelet. The press secretary of the Chilean government, Osvaldo Puccio, referred to Bolivia as a "loved and dear country".

It seems, if not every one, many want to establish some kind of relationship with this new government. The closer these relationships are, the better. One topic that can be observed across the board is the energy policy and cooperation matter, and in particular the tremedous gas reserves at stake. Energy supply, specially natura gas, has become the topic of conversation in Latin America. Brazil, Argentina and Chile, need it, Venezuela and Bolivia have it. The trick is to make supply and demand match in a market. Or perhaps there are other plans in the works?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Miguel, I think it is important to note that the US is threatening to cut 96% of MILITARY aid not all aid, and given that its use is very controversial (training military in dubious interrogation techniques) this I think is a good thing. The cuts in the drugs programme (which reflects a series of cuts over several years ie not just since Morales arrived) are of course another issue and could be seen as lack of confidence in Morales' coca strategy. Nick

Miguel said...

Yes of course, and thanks for pointing that out. The report did say it was military aid. However, I think whether it is good or not remains to be seen.

I guess it also depends how you see things. What I think about is, in the case this new government's policies on the commercialization of Coca do turn out to increase the production of drugs, the cuts would not be good. I doubt the Bolivian military is capable to go at it against the drug cartels of Colombia and their allies the FARC. I mean this is a worst case scenario, but plausible and very threatening, I might add.

On the other hand, I agree with you that if the US military, as part of the aid package, trains Bolivian military people on, as you put it, dubious interrogation techniques, for example, that would not be so good.

As for the cuts in the drugs program, while it is true there have been cuts, the cuts under Morales' watch would be marked. I doubt Bush (and the Congress) would be inclined to keep transferring money without getting what he wants.