January 02, 2007

Morales' International Policy

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Evo Morales and his cabinet spent the night of the 31 to the 1 working. His aim was to show his government would spend 2007 laboring for Bolivia. According to reports, Morales and his cabinet issued five decrees and prepared three new bills to be presented to Parliament for their consideration. The result translates into many changes. One of them is that, from now on, US citizens will have to get a visa to enter Bolivia. The reasons given by the government are reciprocity and security.

Because the US asks Bolivians to apply for a visa when they want to enter the US, the government of Morales wants to do the same to its citizens. This reciprocity policy is not the only one in South America, I know Brazil has the same policy. However, this policy brings more inconveniences than benefits. For one, I could say that the number of US tourists will definitely go down. Those numbers are already too low, and with an additional bureaucratic barrier, it will be worst. Besides, American citizens or tourists come to Bolivia privately, they, for the most part, are not part of the government. Why is it that civilians get to feel the antagonism between governments?

Also, it will not only be burdensome for US tourists, it will also affect Bolivian-Americans. A person like me will have to get a visa to enter his or her own country. I can think of many of my friends who, ironically, will be able to contribute to Bolivia's economic growth by sending remittances, but will have to apply to visit Bolivia, and perhaps only get a permission to stay three months. I know people who go to stay for longer than three months.

Also, while we are on the topic of immigration, the Morales government has decided to "help" Bolivian immigrants in the US by issuing what they call an intelligent consular ID. This document will have the most modern security features and will attest to the identity of the holder. The government says that this document could be used to open accounts, work, get paid, rent anything, etc. Moreover, the document will cost US$ 35, for two years.

What is curious is that from the three articles of the decree, the first one talks about how much it will cost, the second more or less talks about how long will it be valid, and that for the same amount of money it could be renewed. And the third article says to whom the proceeds belong.

I am thinking, and I have to say I have not being able to read the whole text of the articles, that perhaps something is missing here. A great majority of Bolivians are in a situation in which they are living illegally in the US. These people do not have ids nor passports. And, those who do, do not show them for fear of being deported. Also, the situation in the US (that of high security, mistrust and skepticism) is not conducive to trusting any authority. How is it that this document will help these Bolivians? I think if know a little bit of how the US immigration service works, and how accepted are foreign issued documents, it is naive to think this intelligent consular id be in any way helpful to Bolivian citizens. I would have to guess, it would not. US authorities will simply just not accept any foreign issued document, unless there is an agreement between those two governments.


eduardo said...

I hear you. However, fortunately, Bolivia now allows for double nationality. I think that the consulates should make every effort to make sure that those that are eligible for double nationality is able to obtain it, so that they are allowed back to Bolivia freely.

miguel said...

Are you sure? I just asked the people in the embassy, and they told me that is not the case. The only thing is that what it says in the constitution, but if another country does not accept it, then you are back at the start.

Bolivia does not have that yet.

eduardo said...

Yes, I am positive. It is in the Constitution. The US does allow for dual citizenship, if you qualify for that citizenship. You cannot acquire another foreign citizenship without giving up the US. For example, if you were born in the US, you cannot acquire Kenyan citizenship if you have no real ties there (parent, etc).

Do you still have your Bolivian carnet? IF so, you should still be in the 'system' and I am sure you could just renew that and there you go....

Otherwise, you could show that you were in Bolivia and there is a stamp that they place in your US passport..

miguel said...

I get it. I think we are talking about two different things.

While, yes, it is true the US does not make too much of a big deal about double status in many cases, as Germans can have a double citizenship, there are regulations for it. I think, as in the case with Germany, there has to be a formal agreement regulating these cases. It has to fit both legal systems. I just don't think anyone can have, just like that, double status. Americans and American law prohibits an individual to have two passports. That is illegal.

So as you say, the US allows double citizenship, but here is the important thing, in certain cases only.

Now, I am not aware as of right now, of an agreement between the US government and the Bolivian government on this issue. That is why I think it is not possible for Bolivians to have double status in the US.

If we look at the same problem from the other side of the coin, we find ourselves in the same situation. As far as I know and based on what people from the embassy told me, I cannot have double citizenship either. There is simply no law permitting it in Bolivia. What we have is a sentence in the Bolivian constitution that says: Artículo 39º. La nacionalidad boliviana no se pierde por adquirir nacionalidad extranjera. Quien adquiera nacionalidad boliviana no será obligado a renunciar a su nacionalidad de origen.

But, that is no guarantee that we are all free of troubles. For that reason I think there is no lawful way of having two passports, a Bolivian and an American.

The question is what happens when I want to go to Bolivia, if I am a Bolivian-American? I know many Bolivians who leave the US with their US passport and enter Bolivia with their Bolivian passport. I think that is illegal, but the authorities don't seem to either care or realize.

I personally think this question has not yet been answered by Bolivia.

Jorge said...

Miguel states: "Americans and American law prohibits an individual to have two passports. That is illegal." […] “For that reason I think there is no lawful way of having two passports, a Bolivian and an American.”

I think you are wrong. Here is what the website of the State Department says:

"Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship."

Read the complete article at


miguel said...

The key word here is "dual national". Who is a dual national? To have this status there has to be an agreement between the two countries. Germany and the US, for example, this is the case I know the most, have such an agreement. But, it is not so easy to have two passports. Individuals have to fulfill certain criteria. So far as I know, there is no such an agreement between Bolivia and the US.

Jorge said...

The same State Department website I mentioned in my previous post says what dual citizenship is and under what conditions it is permitted. No mention whatsoever of agreements or treaties or anything of the sort. The bold letters are mine.


The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of
two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship
laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by
automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For
example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents
may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a
person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of
the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or
require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a
person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not
risk losing U.S. citizenship
. However, a person who acquires a
foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In
order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person
must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice,
and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

miguel said...

Ok, so the US does not really care about the laws of the other country. So as long as you do not voluntarily give up your citizenship, or do anything to lose it (read you passport to know which things), you are a US citizen.

I cannot imagine there isn't some sort of agreement. But, it seems there isn't. A quick check on the American embassy's site in Berlin, resulted on some answers, for this particular case.

The only way to be dual citizen is by being born to an American and a German parent. This is the only way the governments don't make you choose. How could you at birth?

This is possible because both, the US and Germany recognize the dual citizenship principle.

This would mean, in the case of Bolivia, that the Bolivian government would have to recognize it too. And, would it apply only to people being born from the union of a Bolivian and an American parent?

That still leaves the negative answer to all the other combinations of possibilities: naturalized and people born in the US to Bolivian parents and the other way around too.