September 30, 2006

Bolivian Government Suffers From Weakness

MABB © ®

Going through the variuos news services, I use to keep me updated on Bolivian affairs, it dawned on me that the government has some serious problems of weaknesses. When you look at what goes on in Bolivia over a particular time frame, you cannot help to notice the continuous and relentless undermining of the governmental apparatus by the citizenry. Be it by road blocks, strikes, marches, or by diverse groups setting themselves in direct conflict with the central government, conflict between state and citizenry has become the norm. It is as if the state had lost its monopoly on violence.

Following the Weberian tradition, it is commongly accepted that the state must have the monopoly on legitimate violence. This monopoly allows it to fulfill its functions as state, mainly to assert its right to sovereignty, to maintain the security of the citizens and to provide for order and law. These tasks are becoming harder and harder to achieve for the Bolivian state. More often than none we have seen confrontations between the state and the citizens, and as a result the state's legitimacy is being eroded in the minds of the citizens. I would argue that for a great part of the indigenous population, the state or government is not a legitimate entity. This arguments stems from the observation on the increased confrontation between the state and citizens.

Let's take the latest example. Last Friday, there was the first violent confrontation of the Morales government between government forces and coca growers. As part of its coca eradication efforts (that statement seems a bit strange in a Morales government) the government sent the mixed (police and military) coca eradication force to destroy what were considered by the government illegal coca plantations. As the policing force got the the place, they encountered fierce opposition waiting for them by the coca growers themselves. So much opposition there was that later accounts related a confrontation with arms, sticks and stones on the part of the locals and fire arms from the part of the policing force. The outcome has been several hurt and two dead coca growers.

When we think about it, the people were already waiting for the government forces. They were armed and ready to defend what they considered theirs. This type of confrontation between state forces and citizens is not rare. To the contrary, it has become the norm in Bolivian society. If we think about the last six years or so, this kind of confrontation has been growing bolder and bolder. The worst examples are the events in 2005 when Mesa was forced to step down and the events in Sucre (the same year) to force Rodriguez Velze to the highest office, effectively ignoring the line of succession given by law.

The weakness of the Bolivian state might lie in two reasons. One, failure of the government of providing for the basic necessities for its citizens. Two, the actions of government officials themselves, which weaken further the government's role. Not only the government is not fulfilling its basic obligations with the citizenry, but it is not fulfilling its obligations as a state. It is slowly losing its monopoly to legitimate violence by arbitrarily engaging in questionable and inconsistent actions. Mesa set a dangerous precedent when he did not want to enforce the law, thus embolding extremists to engage in even more violent demostrations. The dialogue between governmet and citizens to resolve conflicts has allowed too many violations of the law. With the pretext of dialogue, the government has allowed too many illegal actions go by without them being set straight.

It is a dangerous road in which the Bolivian government, willingly or unwillingly, is going down. If we take the Weberian position, "a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". The functions of the government cannot be carried out without this prerogative.

September 22, 2006

Civil War in Bolivia Looms Its Ugly Head

MABB © ®

Is there a possibility of civil war in Bolivia? According to a report by the Argentinean newspaper, El Cronista Comercial, there is a 56% chance that a civil war could brake out in Bolivia, due to the current situation and taking account of its history. This prediction has been made using a model which was used by companies around the world to predict such events. The model observes that throughout the world, conflicts have been mainly about economics. The article points out that in Bolivia the conflict is between the government and interests from the richer provinces.

It is striking to me that we are even talking about civil war when it comes to Bolivia, but recent events have caused us to speculate with the worst. Above all, there are the words of Vice-President (now acting president), Alvaro Garcia Linera. True to his roots, Garcia Linera urged the indigenous peoples of the Altiplano to rise and defend the natural resources from the "oligarchs" in Santa Cruz. He spoke this way in a speech given to a group of followers in the symbolic town of Warisata. This town has been the craddle of revolutionaries and main place of operations of Garcia Linera's own terrorist group, back when he was younger.

The Vice-President's words came on the back of the 24 hours strike failure staged by government's supporters around Santa Cruz. These MAS followers aimed at pressuring the opposition by closing major roads and living the city with out any activity.

Garcia Linera's words prompted a group of indigenous militants from the Omasuyos province in El Altiplano, to wanna go to Santa Cruz to "fight" for the natural resources. The Santa Cruz MAS faction is still deciding how to react to the words.

Here is prensa latina's report:

Bolivia Calls Campesinos to Arms

La Paz, Sep 21 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government has urged campesinos to take up arms if necessary in defense of the ongoing process of changes amid diverse political and social conflicts shaking the nation.

Wednesday, Acting President Alvaro Garcia made the exhortation in the locality of Warisata during the commemoration of the third anniversary of the first six deaths of the killing ordered by former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to crack down on a social protest.

The call comes amid conflict and pressure by conservative, regional and political forces for the Constituent Assembly to make decisions by two thirds.

"We must continue fighting and mobilizing to guarantee the Constituent Assembly, the hydrocarbons nationalization, the trial of Sanchez de Lozada, currently in the US, for genocide and the redistribution of lands," Linera pointed out.

His speech was immediately jumped upon by the opposition, among them Deputy Peter Maldonado, from the National Union group, who said the vice president had riled people up and created an improper scenario to negotiate with transnationals.

The Bolivian Executive is parleying with those companies over new operation contracts in line with the nationalization and the preeminence of the state hydrocarbons firm.

Other links on the topic here, here and here

Irresponsibly, Garcia Linera, has called on the campesinos to raise weapons to "defend" the natural resources. Eventhough he has already appologized and said that his words were misunderstood, people are already acting upon them. Bolivian society is further polarizing. So much so, that the prospect of civil unrest is looming.

September 20, 2006

"It is not right that the Coca leaf be legal for Coca-Cola and illegal for the indigenous peoples"

MABB © ®

In today's afternoon session of the United Nation's 61st General Session, President Morales talked for about 20 minutes. In his speech, Morales spoke about the nationalization process, the Coca leaf policy, and the rights of the indigenous people's. In addition, he challenged the US to work with Bolivia on a fair trade agreement, to work together on the drug trafficking problem and to take US troops out of Iraq.

I have to notice though, he was much less eloquent than Mesa. At times it was hard to follow his thought. That is, if you heard him in Spanish. For those who listened to him translated into English, they might notice some of this through the translation.

Here is the speech in English and here it is in Spanish.

Links are from the UN's webcast website. You need Real Player to listen.

September 18, 2006

News Round Up

MABB © ®

U.S. faults Bolivia anti-drug efforts Open this result in new window
AP via Yahoo! News - 1 hour, 35 minutes ago
The Bush administration on Monday noted disturbing trends in Bolivia's cooperation with efforts to combat illicit drugs.

Bolivia Names Villegas Hydrocarbons Minister to Replace Soliz Open this result in new window - Sep 17 2:22 PM
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivia's government named Carlos Villegas, former minister of planning, to head President Evo Morales's efforts to exert more control over foreign oil and gas facilities.

Iran, Bolivia urge promotion of ties Open this result in new window
Islamic Republic News Agency - Sep 16 11:10 PM
Iran - Bolivia - Meet Iran and Bolivia here Saturday urged expansion of relations in all fields including oil and energy.

Bolivia's hydrocarbons minister resigns Open this result in new window
AP via Yahoo! News - Sep 15 7:29 PM
The minister leading Bolivia's efforts to nationalize Bolivia's oil and gas operations resigned Friday after his government backed down in a dispute with Brazil's state-run energy company, the industry's biggest investor.

Bolivia energy minister resigns after Brazil spat Open this result in new window
Reuters via Yahoo! News - Sep 15 4:36 PM
Bolivia's energy minister resigned on Friday after the government suspended a resolution nationalizing refineries owned by Brazil's Petrobras, a letter from Minister Andres Soliz to President Evo Morales showed.

Bolivia's energy minister's resignation casts doubt on nationalization bid( 11:53 a.m.) Open this result in new window - Sep 15 9:09 PM
President Evo Morales' ambitious plan to nationalize Bolivia's energy sector suffered another setback as the minister spearheading the effort resigned after his government backed down in a dispute with Brazil's state-run energy company.

Memorandum for the Secretary of State Open this result in new window
[Press Release] White House News - 24 minutes ago
SUBJECT: Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2007: Pursuant to section 706(1) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY03 (Public Law 107-228) (FRAA), I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia,

Latin American art on view Open this result in new window
AP via Yahoo! News - 50 minutes ago
The culture clash between Old Europe and the New World produced extraordinarily rich and diverse works of art.

Bolivia Backpedals in Dispute with Brazilian Oil Giant Open this result in new window
Rigzone - Sep 15 1:04 PM
The government temporarily suspended a decree giving state-owned YPFB a monopoly on fuel distribution in Bolivia after protests from Brazilian petroleum giant Petrobras - also a state enterprise - and officials in Brasilia.

Reuters via Yahoo! News - Sep 15 7:06 PM
Just hours after Bolivian President Evo Morales said he trusted "differences" could be worked out with Brazil's Petrobras, riled by a move to seize its refinery revenue, Morales' energy minister resigned.

Nonaligned nations blast Israel attacks AP - Sun Sep 17, 1:57 AM ET
HAVANA - Representatives of 118 Nonaligned Movement nations condemned Israel's attacks on Lebanon and supported a peaceful resolution to the U.S.-Iran nuclear dispute in the final declaration Saturday of a summit that brought together some of the United States' staunchest foes.

September 13, 2006


MABB © ®

Just wanted to report there'll be light blogging the next two weeks. I'll be in VA visiting family, registering to vote :-), making contacts and seeing friends.

Of course, I'll keep an eye on Bolivia, and anything should happen I'll be posting it.

Till then!

September 12, 2006

News Round Up

MABB © ®

The world coveraga about Bolivia has definitely increased since Morales poped up. The amoung of news reports has increased manyfold. Yes, the main sources for the English world continue to be Reuters and AP, but many other newspapers grab those reports and print them on their pages. This time, I am including links to rews reports from Yahoo and Google news services. The main topics are, Morales' trip to the US and the general strikes of last Friday.

Bolivia leader wants to preach human rights to Bush
Reuters via Yahoo! News Mon, 11 Sep 2006 7:48 PM PDT
Before embarking on a trip that includes the United States, Bolivia's leftist leader Evo Morales said on Monday he would like to meet President George W. Bush to tell him "some truths about human rights."

Bolivia's Morales to Bypass Washington Mon, 11 Sep 2006 6:58 PM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia - President Evo Morales said Monday that his first trip to the United States since taking office will not include a stop in Washington.

Morales itching to tell Bush 'home truths'
Aljazeera Mon, 11 Sep 2006 9:50 PM PDT
Bolivia's president has admitted that if he gets the opportunity to do so he would like to tell the US president "some truths about human rights".

Bolivian Ambassador to U.S. Breaks with Tradition
NPR Mon, 11 Sep 2006 7:03 AM PDT
Ever since the left-leaning activist Evo Morales swept to power in Bolivia, he has been trying to shake things up in the Andean country. He named a former maid as Justice Minister and sent a singer to become Bolivia's ambassador to France. The man that he sent to Washington is Gustavo Guzman, a journalist with no background in diplomacy. Michele Kelemen reports.
Dream Team of U.S. Bashers Gathers in Cuba
ABC News Mon, 11 Sep 2006 8:18 PM PDT
With a Who's Who of Third World Leaders in Havana, Everyone Wants to Know: Where's Fidel?

Venezuela Dependent on High Oil Price
AP via Yahoo! Finance Mon, 11 Sep 2006 3:02 PM PDT
With OPEC countries concerned over weaker oil prices at this week's ministerial meeting, Venezuela stands out as the most vulnerable exporter in the club as President Hugo Chavez's domestic and foreign policies hinge on record revenue from oil sales.

Held to ransom in the sporadic siege of the Bolivian state
Financial Times Mon, 11 Sep 2006 7:14 PM PDT
Latin American cities are typically based around a central square flanked by a cathedral, city hall and other municipal buildings.
Strike against Morales highlights Bolivia's deep divisions

International Herald Tribune - France
LA PAZ, Bolivia Opponents of President Evo Morales stayed home from work and blocked key thoroughfares in four Bolivian cities Friday to protest his party's ...

'Huge support' for Bolivia strike
BBC News - UK
Opposition leaders in five of Bolivia's nine provinces have claimed massive support for a one-day strike in protest at plans to rewrite the constitution. ...

Ten hurt during protests against Bolivia's Morales
Reuters - USA
LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Supporters of leftist President Evo Morales clashed with opposition protesters striking over constitutional reform plans on Friday ...

Lock-out triggers harsh power struggle in Bolivia
Pravda - Moscow,Russia
... The opposition says the move hides the intention of Evo Morales to overturn Bolivia’s democracy and turn the country into a “totalitarian dictatorship”. ...
See all stories on this topic

Isolated violence and clashes as regional strike hits Bolivia
Monsters and - Glasgow,UK
La Paz - Scattered violence between government and opposition groups took place across Bolivia Friday as four of the country's nine regions launched a 24-hour ...

Bolivia Morales for Assembly Dialog
Escambray - Sancti Spiritus,Cuba
... After recognizing that marches and other forms of protest in Bolivia are constitutional, he said they must be due to the will of a movement or a social sector ...

September 11, 2006

Update on Bolivia's Protests

MABB © ®

Here is a list of links where you can read reports on the latest opposition protests in Bolivia. As you may well know, the opposition in Bolivia is showing its muscles to pressure the government of Evo Morales and his party, MAS, into compromise.

'Huge support' for Bolivia strike
BBC News Fri, 08 Sep 2006 3:50 PM PDT
Opposition leader in Bolivia's wealthier lowlands claim success in a protest against changes to the constitution.

Ten hurt during protests against Bolivia's Morales
Reuters via Yahoo!7 News Fri, 08 Sep 2006 3:52 PM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Supporters of leftist President Evo Morales clashed with opposition protesters striking over constitutional reform plans on Friday, injuring at least 10 people, local media said.

Clashes in Bolivia over proposed constitutional changes
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Fri, 08 Sep 2006 8:30 PM PDT
Supporters of Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales have clashed with opposition protesters striking over constitutional reform plans. Local media says at least 10 people have been injured.

Bolivia: Strike Planned Over Constitution
India Daily Fri, 08 Sep 2006 8:44 AM PDT
Bolivia's four richest departments planned to strike Sept. 8, to demand that the country's new constitution, which is being written by a Constitutional Assembly, be approved by a two-thirds majority instead of the simple majority now allowed.

Bolivians strike in charter row
BBC News Fri, 08 Sep 2006 12:05 PM PDT
A general strike is called in Bolivia's wealthier lowlands to protest against changes to the constitution.

Opponents of Bolivian President Strike
Los Angeles Times Fri, 08 Sep 2006 2:42 PM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Opponents of President Evo Morales stayed home from work and blocked key streets in four cities Friday to protest the governing party's handling of an assembly that is rewriting the Bolivian constitution.

Fashion turns traditional in Bolivia
Miami Herald Fri, 08 Sep 2006 4:14 AM PDT
RETURN OF NATIVE GARB Growing up in the rural Bolivian highlands, Ramona Maldonado always dreamed of leading a modern life in the city. Living that dream, however, required a fundamental change: She would have to revamp her wardrobe.

Almost Half of Bolivians OK with Lazarte
Angus Reid Fri, 08 Sep 2006 11:25 PM PDT
- Many adults in Bolivia express satisfaction with the president of the National Constituent Assembly, according to a poll by Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado.

Select an Edition:
AlertNet Fri, 08 Sep 2006 8:07 AM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Businesses, schools and buses shut down in Santa Cruz, Bolivia's most populous city, on Friday, as opposition leaders in the wealthiest part of the country called a general strike that posed the biggest challenge yet to leftist president Evo Morales.

Opponents of Bolivian President Strike
ABC News Fri, 08 Sep 2006 9:18 PM PDT
Opponents of Bolivian President Strike to Protest Constitutional Rewrite Process

I also wanted to direct you to two English speaking Blogs written by Bolivians living in the US. If you are a regular in the Boliblogsphere, you surely know them. Miguel, author of Ciao! and Eddie, author of Barrio Flores, reflect over the latest events in the country. Miguel tells us what is going on because his parents are living there, and Eddie is currently in Bolivia. Each has a different take on the matter and through their reflections we can see into the problems from the ground up.

Miguel tells us that on his parents' oppinion and his, I assume,

It seems clear that the 24-hour general strike in Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando was relatively successful. Its leaders acknowledged that not all activities ceased, but enough that the major cities (particularly the cities of Santa Cruz & Tarija) were virtually shut down. There were, as far as I could tell, two major confrontations in Santa Cruz. One (reported by the state-run television) involved an alleged early morning attack on the television station. The other, was a clash between pro-government youth (the Grupo Ernesto Che Guevara) & pro-regionalist youth (the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista) in the Plan 3,000 neighborhood. That's it.

However, he was shocked to know that the government, through its machinery, was reporting otherwise.

The Friday strike was, in their opinion, pretty comprehensive. But they were shocked, as was I, at the level of propaganda the MAS government was willing to emply. State-run television & radio stations broadcast one of two message: either the strike was a "failure" (that is, it had limited participation) or there were numerous violent clashes initiated by "drunken" youths. How both stories can be mutually acceptable (if there were numerous clashes, then the strike wasn't a failure, and if it was a failure, there shouldn't be numerous clashes) is beyond me. Of course, private-owned television & radio stations (as well as newspapers) reported the opposite — along w/ live, color images of eerily empty streets.

Miguel goes on to question something he doesn't understand:

And here's where I don't understand the government tactic. Unlike in Cuba, there's no state-monopoly over news media or sources of information. So a series of pronouncements about the failure and/or drunken violence of the strikes on state-run channels stood in stark contrast to what Bolivians could see & hear on other news networks. The move reminded me of Baghdad Bob's fantastical pronouncements during the first month of the Iraq War. Does Evo's government really expect citizens to accept an alternate reality of events? Particularly when they can turn the channel to another station? If that's the case, then I really don't understand.
While on the other side of the coin Eddie was getting sick to his stomach watching the events unfold in front of his eyes on the TV screen:

I was sick to my stomach. A pounding headache confined me to bed most of the afternoon. The cause must have been some combination of the high altitude and what I had seen on TV. Usually Bolivian cable television offers up some pretty good programming without the excess of commercials. However, the images of the repercussions of the general strike in four of the eastern departments put me over the edge. The clashes were no longer citizens vs. police, but rather citizens vs. citizens.

According to Eddie, the confrontations were shown on the screen, live:

Live unedited images showed rock-throwing Bolivians launching projectiles without any idea where they would land. The problem was that you could not really distinguish who was the MAS supporter and who was the “autonomy” supporter.
Eddie argues that the people who organized the strikes have an interest to see the current government fail:

However, the strike that took place last Friday was not the work of the “silent majority”, but rather groups that have an interest in seeing the government failed. Just as questions arise to who is paying for the lodging, transportation and food of the cocaleros that are vigilando the Constituent Assembly in Sucre, questions must arise as to who is paying the Union Juvenil Cruceñista to do their dirty work, such as threatening businesses that did not join the strike, much like their counterparts in El Alto that used pressure tactics against those who just wanted to work and live peacefully.

After reading those eloquent posts, I wonder, who is right? While is true the government is actively trying to influence the Constituent Assembly and its actions have a double morale, it is also true that the opposition is doing everything that is possible to see the government fail and thus stop some of the radical changes being brought about by MAS. One thingk is cristal clear, Bolivia is polarizing. and in the process radicalizing, even more. If the new politicians do not come to their senses and start "really" talking with one another, there is no bright future for Bolivia.

Read Miguel's post here and Eddie's post here.

September 08, 2006

Is the Rule of Law Slowly Braking Down?

MABB © ®

Following events in Bolivia only brings lots of questions to my mind. Perhaps is just the media effect. You know, the way the media writes its headlines. They have to be catchy, sensationalist, if possible. But, if one just concentrates on the facts, one cannot help but come up with questions. For example the questions I asked myself today morning: Is the rule of law slowly braking down in Bolivia?

Take for example these two news reports from Bnamericas and Reuters, respectively:

Fejuve prepares to take over Aisa - Bolivia
Published: Thursday, September 7, 2006 12:14 (GMT -0400)

Bolivian neighborhood pressure group Fejuve plans on forcibly taking over the Aguas del Illimani (Aisa) water utility for capital La Paz and neighboring city El Alto, a Fejuve official told BNamericas.

Fejuve has already put together the group that will carry out the takeover and is currently holding talks with La Paz and El Alto residents to gain further support, said the official, refusing to comment on specific dates, but insisting that the group has already identified the time line for these actions.

The official accused Bolivian water minister Abel Mamani of failing to put an end "to the utility's abuses," adding that Aisa has begun to fine users for unauthorized water connections. Mamani had promised the utility's exit by May this year, after accusing Aisa of failing to comply with its concession contract. But both Mamani and President Evo Morales later began negotiations with the company, seeking what they called a "peaceful exit."

(to continue reading click on the title)

Thu Sep 7, 2006 08:40 AM ET

By Eduardo Garcia
SUCRE, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivians sat down a month ago to rewrite their constitution, but disputes and infighting threaten to bog down President Evo Morales' plan to rebuild the country on indigenous principles.

Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous people of any South American country. Morales, a former coca farmer, took office in January as the country's first Indian president and vowed to end centuries of domination by a European-descended elite. One of his biggest election promises was to set up an elected national assembly charged with rewriting the constitution, which was widely viewed as helping institutionalize the bias in favor of the elites. The 255-seat chamber was inaugurated on August 6 -- the country's independence day -- but it already looks polarized.

(to continue reading click on the title)

September 06, 2006

What is the Bolivian Government Thinking?

MABB © ®

The former General Manager of the Bolivian Central Bank, Marcela Nogales, has been jailed without being convicted under the lable "preventive detention". The argument is that she cannot flee out of the country if she is in jail. Is she a live example of a witch-hunt going on in Bolivia, so the government can vacate important public offices and replace the officials with its own cronies? An article in the Herald Tribune asks just that:

Prosecutors contend Nogales abused her office by releasing money that facilitated a military crackdown whose repercussions — some 60 people shot to death — prompted a president to flee into exile.
But to many Bolivians, the "preventative detention" of this 47-year-old career woman and mother of two preadolescents is a political vendetta of the highest order.
They fear that President Evo Morales' government, in its zeal to redress historic injustices in favor of the indigenous poor majority, is callously trampling on civil liberties, using the courts to silence opponents and move loyalists into key state agencies.
Targeted are high-ranking figures from the political class that Morales' populist revolution swept from power in December elections. Many of them have led institutions such as the central bank that have proven difficult to purge.
To date, the Morales team has announced plans to prosecute some 150 people who held high-level jobs in previous governments — including five ex-presidents — for crimes ranging from "genocide" to "espionage" and "destruction or deterioration of state assets."

According to AP there is not enough evidence to support the detention on Nogales' case:

Yet the government has provided scant evidence to back the accusations, relying instead on news conferences and public harangues. In the Nogales case, an ambiguous video of people removing stacks of money from a bank vault was leaked to TV networks in June and broadcast widely.
Attempts by The Associated Press to obtain legal documents in the most prominent cases were frustrated by uncooperative prosecutors and court officials, even though Bolivian law says the documents are, with few exceptions, public record.

Even scholars are concerned about it:

"Everyone feels frightened and intimidated," professor Morales, who is unrelated to the president, said in an interview. "All the time there are unfounded accusations." Prosecutors have twice interrogated him for eight hours but filed no charges. He fears Nogales is being pressured into providing damning but false evidence against her former superiors.

and not to mention jurists:

Several leading Bolivian jurists, including Rodriguez, accuse Gareca of being a tool of Evo Morales, and thwarting justice to make it appear as if he's moving decisively against corruption, long a major problem in South America's poorest nation.

The question is, is the government of Evo Morales conducting a witch-hunt with the goal of vacating positions for its own people?

On the topic of the Constitutional Assembly, I have read reports from people who are present in the sessions in Sucre, that the leaders of MAS, Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia, have ordered the MAS faction to force the will of the majority. Garcia, arguing that the MAS has had to wait almost 20 years and the indigenous population even more, to rule, it was time for the majority to start making the decisions. With that in mind, the assembly members from MAS forced the passing of the internal regulations code without the consent of the opposition.

As a result of that today Friday there will be a general strike in the departments of the so called, "half moon" region, that is, Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija. These are the same states that voted "yes" in the autonomic referendum last December. The attitude of the government and its representation in the assembly, MAS, has resulted on the further polarization (radicalization) of the situation. To the point that there is a serious possibility of some kind of physical confrontation between people from the two factions. Throughout the day there will be controls posted in street corners to make sure the strike is followed (in Santa Cruz). At the same time, opponents (sympathisers of MAS) and some people from La Paz who will travel to Santa Cruz, will also come out on the streets to make sure that "there are no abuses". However, just to have these two groups out on the streets, even if they say they just want to look out, is dangerous enough.

It seems to me that the government is not playing with the right cards. It is only making the opposition to take more radical positions.

In addition, find below some news links, where you'll find the link to the article disscussed above.

AP Enterprise: Evidence scant in high-profile Bolivia prosecutions
International Herald Tribune - France
LA PAZ, Bolivia For six weeks, Marcela Nogales has been jailed without charge for letting a besieged government make emergency withdrawals from Bolivia's ...
See all stories on this topic

Bolivia needs $1 billion to hike gas supply to Argentina:minister
Platts (subscription) - USA
Rio de Janeiro (Platts)--5Sep2006 Bolivia needs $1 billion in new investments to boost gas production so that it can supply neighboring Argentina with up to ...

Bolivia: Provinces Call For Strike
Stratfor - USA
... convened to redraft the constitution. These regions, the wealthiest of Bolivia, are in favor of autonomy, which is opposed by Morales.

Bolivia and Transnats Parley Oil
Prensa Latina - Havana,Cuba
La Paz, Sep 5 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government is opening Tuesday negotiations with oil companies operating in the nation to sign new deals in line with ...

Bolivia's four provinces to stage anti-president strike
People's Daily Online - Beijing,China
Four of Bolivia's nine provinces on Tuesday announced a regional strike this week against President Evo Morales over his attempt to take control of a special ...
See all stories on this topic

Georgia tops business reform list
BBC News - UK
... its Doing Business report found. But Bolivia, Venezuela and Zimbabwe have all regressed, it concluded. In its fourth annual report ...

Bolivia Rejects Opposition Strike
Prensa Latina - Havana,Cuba
La Paz, Sep 5 (Prensa Latina) The Bolivian government rejected on Monday a general strike by the opposition that was announced in four regions, the leadership ...
See all stories on this topic

A New Constitution for Bolivia: the History and Structure of the ...
Upside Down World - Hartwick,NY,USA
... Likewise, the current demand for a constitutional assembly in Bolivia is not a recent development. Yet, unlike in Peru and Venezuela ...

Bolivia 2006 - Start of the Process DVD - London,UK
For the mainstream media the political upheavals in Bolivia since the turn of the century culminated in the election of radical president Evo Morales in ...

Bolivia negotiates oil nationalization
AP via Yahoo! News
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 7:11 PM PDT
The nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry appeared to move forward Tuesday as the government began long-awaited contract negotiations with foreign petroleum companies, and collected $32.3 million in new higher gas royalties.

Bolivia goes after high-powered figures
AP via Yahoo! News
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 12:05 PM PDT
For six weeks, Marcela Nogales has been jailed without charge for letting a besieged government make emergency withdrawals from Bolivia's central bank in October 2003 when she was its general manager.

(AFX UK Focus) 2006-09-06 06:34 GMT: Bolivia starts oil sector nationalization talks with Total
Interactive Investor
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 10:56 PM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AFX) - The nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry appeared to move forward Tuesday as the government began long-awaited contract negotiations with foreign petroleum companies, and collected 32.3 mln usd in new higher gas royalties.

Bolivia Negotiates Oil Nationalization
WJLA-TV Washington D.C.
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 8:34 PM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - The nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry appeared to move forward Tuesday as the government began long-awaited contract negotiations with foreign petroleum companies, and collected $32.3 million in new higher gas royalties.Representatives from the French company Total SA met with Hydrocarbons Ministry officials on Tuesday in La Paz to draw up a new contract

The World Bank views Venezuela and Bolivia as a stumbling block
El Universal
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 3:13 PM PDT
Venezuela and Bolivia have resisted to the hemispheric trend towards better conditions for business development, and tried instead to put stumbling blocs to the capital intended to create jobs.

Bolivia 2006 - Start of the Process DVD
Socialist Worker
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 12:06 PM PDT
For the mainstream media the political upheavals in Bolivia since the turn of the century culminated in the election of radical president Evo Morales in December last year.

Bolivia starts oil sector nationalization talks with Total
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 10:29 PM PDT
Representatives from the French company Total SA met with Hydrocarbons Ministry officials on Tuesday in La Paz to draw up a new contract ceding a majority share of their Bolivian operations to the government, as required by President Evo Morales\' May 1 nationalization decree.
Prosecutors Put Pressure on Govt Over Petrobras, YPFB Talks
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 1:06 PM PDT
Federal prosecutors in Brazil will follow talks between federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) and Bolivian authorities over the price of natural gas exports and compensatory measures for the expropriation of its hydrocarbons assets in Bolivia.

September 05, 2006

Things Are Getting Ugly

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Things are getting ugly in Bolivia. The positions are radicalizing even more as time goes on and the parties try to impose their views. For starters, the government is not backing down after its highly questionable move to approve the internal regulations code with a voting session without following the rules (see prior post). The opposition now, made up of not only the assembly members in the opposition, but also the civic committees of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija, and members of parliament from the same departments, have decided to strike on Friday. This decision was taken at a meeting yesterday in Santa Cruz, and they issued a document calling for the government to stop trying to control power and, as they put it, to carry an auto-coup-de-etat a la Fujumori.

As if things are not bad enough, various groups such as one of the national worker's union, an indigenous organization from the Eastern region, the Coca grower's union and the famous El Alto neighborhood associations, have decided to play police and travel to Sucre to assure the security of the assembly members, as well as to watch them closely.

For its part, the government a week ago, asked the same groups to go to Sucre. However, in recent days, it changed its mind and asked them not to go to Sucre. In response to the demands of the oppositon, Morales has asked the civic committees to form their own political party.

The main message is that the Constitutional Assembly is in serious crisis. There are calls from the separatists in Santa Cruz (la nacion camba) to form a regional assembly. The people in the Andes, are so worried that they decided to go to Sucre to make sure the assembly continues its work. They have threatened the assembly members with community justice if they don't do what the "people" want. The assembly itself is having trouble meeting and doing its work.

I think if the government does not negotiate and perhaps reconsider its actions, the process might even brake down. It might even be a better idea to stop interfering with the assembly and let the members (MAS) do their job. Last week I read a report, in a newspaper which is very supportive of MAS, La Razon, that the parties in the assembly were close to an agreement on the voting procedure and the nature of the assembly. The MAS group, after having meet with the government, changed positions and hardened its line. They were not ready to compromise anymore. As for the opposition, to regionalize the trouble will only contribute to the deep polarization that already exists as climate in Sucre. The civics and the parliamentarians should also stay away. Let the assembly do its work!

September 03, 2006

Alarm in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly Process

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There is a current state of alarm in Bolivia. The barely month old Constituent Assembly process has entered into a crisis. At the heart of the problem is the approval of the code of internal regulations, and more specifically, the parts dealing with the nature of the assembly and the voting procedures.

In the last weeks, a polarization of positions has been brewing at the CA. On the one side, the MAS constituents, together with the government and many smaller constituent groups aligned with the government and MAS, have been trying to push for the CA to be declared "originating" and for all the decisions to be voted with an absolute majority. On the other side, the opposition (Podemos, UN, MNR and CN), and other organizations such as the civic committees, have been arguing for the CA to follow the rule of law and for all the decisions to be taken by a 2/3 vote rule. These issues have proven to be more polarizing thant they seemed with the government and the MAS constituents digging in their heels and not bowing to compromise, and the opposition accusing the government of wanting to control power.

On Friday, las week, MAS decided to go for it and force the approval of the internal regulations code. The MAS, who holds the presidency of the CA, started the procedure to start the voting process by reading the text of the code. Some members of the opposition got up and walked to the front of the assembly where the presidency is seated and the text was being read (the CA is taking place in a theater) to try to stop it. In that instant one of the members of MAS (Roman Loayza) tried to clear the area, and before he could do anything he made a false step and fell 2 meters (6.5 feet) down to the pit. In light of the chaos, the opposition decided to leave. However, the MAS members decided to continue with the vote and they approved the code with 139 votes out of 255.

As a result, the parties have radicalized even more. The president yesterday, in a speech, asked the people to rise and defend the assembly process from the opposition. Meanwhile, several organized indigenous groups decided to go to Sucre to observe the CA from a close distance. Many threats have been issued to the assembly members, if they don't do what they are told to by the "people". At the same time, the opposition has decided to meet in Santa Cruz. To that meeting are also going the civic committees of Tarija, Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz. There is a real antagonist air in this meeting, because the most radical position would be to seced from the country if the government doesn't stop its maneuvers to control power.