January 30, 2007

About MAS

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Among many other news services, Bloomberg reports on the Bolivian energy company's (YPFB) change of CEO. It states, "Bolivia's President Evo Morales named ruling party member Manuel Morales Olivera to head Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, the state oil company's third CEO in 12 months. Morales Olivera, who isn't related to the president, replaces Chief Executive Juan Carlos Ortiz, who resigned Jan. 26 over differences with President Morales on how to run the company, YPFB spokesman German Velasquez said in a phone interview from La Paz."

Moreover, on the anniversary of his first year in office (January 23), Morales changed seven people in his cabinet. One of them, Salvador Ric, Minister for Basic Services and Public Works, also left the cabinet due to differences with Morales. Ric told the press that the government did not let him take any decisions. The last draw was when the government pushed its own people to fill posts, when Ric wanted to use technical knowledge to select candidates.

These two are symptoms of one of MAS' illnesses, i.e. two different currents within the organization. Let's remember that MAS is no political party, in the traditional sense. It is a what themselves call an umbrella organization where literally hundreds of smaller organizations are banded together. MAS is the so called "political instrument for the people's sovereignty". The majority of these organizations have roots in the organized labor, such as unions, federations, confederations, but also include neighborhood associations, even civic associations, and the like. The one commonality bringing all these organizations together is that the people are mostly working class people.

However, the commonalities stop there. As you may already know, Bolivia is a tremendously diverse country. There are no official statistics on how many indigenous tribes or groups live in Bolivia today, but according to some numbers I read there are at least 35 groups. However, the majority of these groups are organized in communities or localities. This means that each group has its own idiosyncrasies and its own way of organization. Of course, there are overlapping issues as well. With this I want to say that MAS is far from being a homogeneous, monolith group.

Nonetheless, aside from this particular differences, there is an overarching one. That is, there are two currents of thought within MAS. One is the indigenous thought which is seeking deep change in Bolivia's system of government. The other current has been denominated, the intellectual one. That is, it is the group of people who have higher education and university degrees. Some of these people are technocrats who have worked in other governments. These people have experience in government administration. Also, many people in this group does not completely subscribe to MAS' ideology and direction.

What brings these two odd groups together is, on the one side, MAS' need for experienced hands. Morales needs people who have experience in government administration and who can think in complex manner. The MAS is in desperate need for these people. On the other side, these intellectuals have a need for work, and perhaps their own ambitions. But, also, some might really want to work for MAS' ideals.

This fact has already meant many problems within MAS and the current government. One example is the assembly`s 2/3 voting method. The intellectuals were pushing for this option, whereas the indigenous wing wanted the simple majority method. I think this will keep on presenting MAS with difficulties. The fact that these two groups within MAS have different interest and think in different terms is not conducive to working together. And perhaps, that is good so.

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