January 02, 2007

Morales' International Policy

MABB © ®

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.