March 30, 2007

The Emigration of Bolivians, an Alarming Situation!

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The emigration of Bolivians to Spain is taking alarming tones. According to EU legislation to control illegal immigration, Spain will be asking Bolivians to apply for visas if they want to visit that country. Up to now, Bolivians did not require any visa to enter Spain as tourists. That is the main reason Bolivians who want to immigrate to Spain have been, since the end of last year, trying to get to Spain before April first.

The situation is dramatic because at this point in time, there are no more tickets available to travel by plane. The two airlines servicing that route, LAB and Aero Sur, have sold out all their seats. Additionally, LAB, the Bolivian airline, has been having trouble keeping up with its bills and just days ago, it has completely ceased operations and canceled all its flights to Spain. This left literally thousands of customers stranded in both sides of the Atlantic, in Viru-Viru, Santa Cruz and in Barajas, Madrid. To put salt on the wound, the three highest executives of LAB have been arrested for fraud by the Attorney General of Santa Cruz. The alleged charge is the selling of tickets, even though the executives knew they would have to cancel the flights.

Making matters worst, there are plenty of people, such as travel agents, who are trying to speculate with the anguish of these people by continue selling tickets to Spain, even though there are no more places on the planes. The military has jumped in and has announced it would make available, on order of the government, airplanes to take Bolivians to Brasil so they could catch connecting flights. These tickets are supposed to cost $390 dollars, and that is on top of the between $1200 to $3000 dollars people already paid.

Due to the lack of flights, other Bolivians have opted to make the trip on cruises. However, that did not turned out to be an optimal solution either. As I write this post, there are around 89 Bolivians on board of the cruise ship Sinfonia, who have not been allowed into Spain, at the ports of Cadiz and Valencia. Now they are on their way to Genoa, and are at the mercy of Italian authorities.

According to press reports, there are around 60 thousand legal Bolivians living in Spain, and there are estimates that in total are around 300,000 Bolivians living there without papers. Every day arrive around 500 immigrants in Barajas. Of those, 55% are illegal and at the time, 90% are Bolivian.

The situation is dramatic indeed. Many Bolivians are desperate to join family and others want to just immigrate. This will remain critical until this Saturday, when the possibility to reach Spain before the visa legislation enters into force is not possible anymore.

March 25, 2007

Full Text of the Contracts Between the Bolivian Government With the Transnationals

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For those of you who are interested in the details of what is and was going on in the negotiation process between the Bolivian government and the companies exploring, refining and commercializing the Bolivian natural gas, here is an interesting link. In it you will find all the original contracts, as they are right now, in PDF format. I say as they are, because they might change in the near future. They are being re-negotiated again.

They are in Spanish, but I assume that those who really want to read the contracts, do read some or a lot of Spanish.

I wish you lots of fun. :-)

March 21, 2007

Brief Summary of What Happened in El Alto

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The second visit of the assembly tour, El Alto, is over and here is a short summary.

The 21 commissions of the Constituent Assembly were welcomed in El Alto with a solemn ceremony. It was symbolic because one of the demands of the October agenda in El Alto, the social movements' demands back in October 2003, was the assembly.

In the mids of, at times violent demonstrations, the first proposals were those of modification to the patriotic symbol. Among others, proposals included the addition of the multi-colored indigenous flag to a corner of the current Bolivian flag. Other proposals modified the national shield adding coca leafs, the Illimani volcano and jaguars. There was a proposal to replace the words of the national anthem with allusions to a nation of indigenous people and the immigrants living together in peace.

Another issue El Alto demanded was the nationalization of the entire production process of natural gas.

Alteños also asked for loans at low interests to stimulate enterprises, policies to fight unemployment, and elect judges.

March 18, 2007

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: PODEMOS' Proposal

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This time I present the main characteristics of the PODEMOS proposal for a vision of state.

PODEMOS proposes to anchor the new state in the following principles and values: human rights; life; pluralism of politics and faith; respect for social practices, customs and organization of the different indigenous peoples; social responsibility; democracy; tolerance, liberty, transparency, unity, equality, equity, justice, solidarity; human dignity; constitutional supremacy; sovereignty, normative hierarchy; cultural diversity; integrity of territory; redistribution; inclusion; independence; and complementarity.

Rights: individual rights are the right to life, physical and psychological integrity; honor and good reputation; ethnic and cultural identity; liberty, freedom of thought, religion, information, conscience, association, speech; security; privacy; due process; private property. The political rights are the right to vote, and be voted; re-call a mandate; association and belonging to a political group; social control; to participate in public affairs; citizen's initiative; referendum.

Democracy: participative democracy with direct elections, plebiscite, citizen's initiatives, mandate re-call, social citizen control, referendum.

The Executive: the system is presidentialism. Executive is constituted by a President and a Premier or 'Cabinet Chief', and the Cabinet of Ministers. The heads of state are elected by direct elections.

The Legislative: it consists of two chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Legislative members are elected by direct vote, the Deputies are elected using the single members district system. Two chambers to provide representation to regions and districts.

The Judicial: Judges are elected by the Consejo de la Magistratura, an independent body comprised of academics, citizens and professionals.

Communal Justice: Communal Justice is used within the framework of mediation and conflict resolution.

Citizen's control: The Citizens Control Councils function parallel to each of the government levels.

State organization: there are three levels of government, national, departmental, and municipal. The departmental head of government is either the Governor or the Prefect. The Mayor or Alcalde is the head of government of the municipality. The departmental level of government has a Departmental Assembly or Council. At the municipal level the deliberative body is the Municipal Council.

Health: universal health and social security.

Education: free, universal and obligatory education.

Economy: market economy within the framework of sustainable development. The state should intervene in the market to assure equitable distribution.

Decentralization and autonomy: the state is decentralized and the departments which opted for autonomy in the July 2006 referendum have the option to implement it.

Natural resources: renewable and non renewable natural (including land) resources is the dominion of the state. It is the state's responsibility to exploit these resources and distribute the benefits to all Bolivians.

Army: the function of the military is to defend the integrity of Bolivia.

More details are found here.

March 16, 2007

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: MAS' Proposal

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The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) has put forward its vision of a state. Following is a brief summary of the proposal.

MAS considers that the Bolivian state should be unitary, multi-national, decentralized, social and communal. It should recognize the existence of the indigenous communities. It should be based on direct participatory democracy, where the communal social power is the highest power in the country. Land and territory should be shared with the state. It should be equally distributed and there should be no large concentrations of land in private hands. Non-renewable natural resources should be the property of the state. Their industrialization, however, should be shared with the indigenous communities. The renewable natural resources should be the property of the indigenous communities. The conservation of the environment should be the responsibility of the indigenous communities. The state should make an economic plan of development, with equitable re-distribution of gains. The state should also promote private enterprises but no monopolies.

Values: Equality, equity, reciprocity, complementarity, solidarity, transparency, social responsibility, liberty, respect for life, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, respect for free speech and belief.

Principles: Unity, multi-nationality, independence, sovereignty, pluralistic justice, participative democracy, 'to live well.'

The state should promote direct participation through assemblies, town-hall meetings, referenda, plebiscites, mandate re-call, popular veto, legislative initiative.

The executive: The president and vice-president should be elected directly by including a second round election. Also, the president's cabinet should be proposed by the people, and picked by the president.

The legislative: There should be one chamber, with representatives elected according to population and region or territory. The election process should be twofold: in the multi-national regions, by vote and in the indigenous communities with one national identity, by uses and customs (picked by the communities).

The judicial: The state should have ordinary justice and incorporate communal justice. Judges should be elected.

The social power: This additional branch would be the controlling power of government.

The state should have three levels of organization:

The national level: The central state, which should administer the government, execute laws, equitable distribution of natural resources and to guarantee sovereignty, independence and integrity.

The meso level: In charge of the regional administration of the governments. Autonomous status.

The local level: Municipal and indigenous territories, with autonomy.

The non-renewable and renewable natural resources should be the property of the indigenous peoples and the state, which should administer them in favor of the people.

The natural resources should be exploited according to the sustainable development idea.

No transgenics in Bolivia.

The international financial aid should not have any conditionality.

Coca is considered sacred.

Education: The state should be multilingual, with the indigenous languages as primary language in each region and Spanish as secondary. Education should be free.

Work: Work is guaranteed by the state. Social security and health insurance is free.

Note: This is a summary according to what I thought was interesting from the whole document. By no means it is an exhaustive summary. Please take a look at the document if you need more details. The entire documents, in Spanish, can be found here.

March 13, 2007

Brief Summary of What Happened in Cobija, Pando

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As you read in my previous post, the Constituent Assembly is traveling around to compile opinions from citizens. The first stop was the small city of Cobija, Pando. Cobija city is located around 600 km (373 mi.) north of La Paz, in the Amazon Basin on the border of Brazil and is the capital of the Pando department. Cobija lies on banks of the Acre river, across from the Brazilian city Brasiléia and it has around 26.000 inhabitants. Its elevation is around 280 m (920 ft.) above sea level and has a tropical and rainy climate.

The members of the assembly held several meetings with the citizens and hear what they had to say. Very loud, the citizens yelled autonomy. An additional demand was that the Amazon region was treated in a special manner. They asked for recognition, respect and development.

The economic development commission met with representatives of local exporters, producers, ranchers, medium and small businessmen and workers. They asked for support.

One important observation was made by Pando assembly member, David Torrico. He said that many people did not know what the assembly was for. The lack of information was spread and worrisome. Other assembly members agreed, there were plenty of seats available in the meetings.

March 12, 2007

The Constituent Assembly on the Move

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This month, from 12 March to 13 April, the 21 assembly commissions are paying a house visit to the voters. In order to accelerate and reach the citizens of the country, the commissions are traveling around to every department to collect proposals and ideas. The itinerary is thus:
  • March 12 - Cobija, Pando
  • March 16 - La Paz
  • March 20 - Sucre
  • March 23 - Potosi
  • March 26 - Oruro
  • March 29 - Cochabamba
  • April 02 - Santa Cruz
  • April 10 - Tarija
  • April 13 - Trinidad, Beni
Today, the assembly members are busy holding meetings in Cobija. The reports say that they overwhelmed the hotels and there is hardly a place to sleep in that city. Some of the 266 assembly members are staying in military buildings.

What this region is asking for is: Autonomy, development of the north Amazone region, and ecologic pause. The autonomies should be gradual and the organizations of workers are in tune. The ecologic pause should prevent enterprises to over develop the region and promote the payment of taxes for the region.

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: MOP, MNR - A3 and MIR's Proposals

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On 28 February, the assembly's session continued with the presentations of the political forces' visions for the new state. The first organization was Movimiento Originario Popular, MOP (Originary Popular Movement), which stems from north Potosi.

For MOP, the state should be multi-national, popular, intercultural, unitary, and based on solidarity, without social exclusion. The state should be decentralized with national, departmental, regional and municipal levels. The democracy should be participative and communal.

The legislative branch should be unicameral, with the option to re-call. Congressmen should be able to be elected from the 18th year of life, without the possibility to reelection, they shouldn't have immunity, and they should be selected by the uses and customs (which means where they come from).

The executive branch should have only a head of state (no vice-president), no option to reelection, the re-call option applies here as well, alternative elections per gender, no immunity.

The judicial branch should have judges who are elected democratically, incorporate communal justice, with citizen's control, free of cost for citizens.

A fourth branch called 'control ciudadano' or citizens' control branch.

"administrative decentralization with process to autonomy for departments, municipalities, regions and indigenous communities under the control of the state" (what that means, I am not sure).

The second presentation was that of MNR - A3, by its representatives, Freddy Soruco and Roberto Vaca.

The state should implement autonomy under national unity. There should be politic and administrative decentralization, as well as participative democracy.

The state should have armed forces which provide security. There should be Army, Navy, Air Force and Police.

The democracy should be representative.

Land should not be communal, otherwise credits could not be created. The land should belong to whom it works it. Cooperatives of credit could be created.

Education (private and public) should be free (yes, you are reading right). Each department should design its own educational programs, assuring that religion and civics is taught.

Family is the base of society. Government officials should be obliged to be married, as a good example.

Any Bolivian from 16 years and up should be able to vote.

The presentation of MIR.

The state should be decentralized politically, but the unity of the judicial and the administrative should be preserved. The state should have autonomous departments. The state should be pluralistic and egalitarian.

The legislative branch should be based in parliamentarism, with two chambers (representation for the population and territory).

The economic model should allow for the free intervention of the citizens, and should be flexible enough to adapt itself to different conditions.

The new constitution should allow the ownership of agricultural land, the security of private and public investments, and should allow the gain of profit for the sustainable exploitation of renewable natural resources.

Note: I have pretty much translated as it was written on the documents. Some sentences do not make sense, but they are written that way. The source document is a sort of meeting protocol.

March 08, 2007

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: Government's Proposal

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The current government, Evo Morales and MAS-IP, have a distinct idea of how should Bolivia look like after the Constituent Assembly. In their proposed constitution they lay out the particulars of government organization, the principles to follow and the form the governmental apparatus should have. What follows is a brief description of the aspects I find most interesting to look at of that proposal. This proposal should be debated by the assembly in the next months.

The government's proposal covers eight areas: Justice; social; land and territory; decentralization and autonomy; economy; natural resources and environmental conservation; security and state's defense; and foreign policy.

Justice: The aim is to adopt the Andean principles of 'don't be a liar, don't be lazy, don't steal'; to make the outcomes of 'communitarian justice' (also called indigenous justice) inappealable; to adopt popular sovereignty; to establish close control of government by the social movements; to make mandates revocable; equality, fairness, protection of human rights, among others. Judges would be elected by the people (including the Constitutional Tribunal), and could be removed by referendum. A mechanism for the protection of the constitution by the people called, Popular Action, should be included. It should also be adopted the concept of 'indigenous justice', which is justice seen from the point of view of the indigenous peoples.

Social: This area includes, health care for all citizens, without discrimination; the use of traditional medicine; the application of the decentralization and autonomy principles to the health sector; universal, intra and inter cultural, communal and secular education; right to assemble and protest for workers; social security.

Land and Territory: The government has the duty to equally re-distribute unproductive land in favor of those who don't have land; prohibition of large land-holdings (over 5000 hectares), except those of indigenous communities; the political division of the country should follow traditional and historical divisions; the state has control of all natural resources; the state will use natural resources in favor of the indigenous populations.

Decentralization and autonomy: Four principles to define state, decentralization, republic, multinational, and solidarity; decentralization and autonomy should reach the local level (i.e., indigenous communities); government services closer to the citizens; preserving the unity of the country; direct participation; the government preserves its status of supreme power (thus it can revert the decentralization, as well as the autonomic processes); four levels of government, the national, departmental, municipal and original, territorial, indigenous entities (ETIOs).

Economy: Draft and follow a national development plan; mixed economy, private, public, and community; the state should participate in majority in strategic industries; any dispute with a foreign company should be resolved according to national laws.

Natural Resources and Environmental Protection: Protect and preserve nature; the state has sovereignty over natural resources; to use natural resources in benefit of all Bolivians; the resource water is not to be commercialized.

Security and State's Defense: to assure citizen security; the police as an agent to provide security; the police as an agent to defend the country; congress can only declare war; national forces to defend unity and integrity of the country.

Foreign Policy: The principles are brotherhood of nations, peaceful co-existence, and protection of the planet; against nuclear energy; to resolve the differences with Chile; based on indigenous culture, establish peaceful relations with all nations; reject war from principle; international solidarity; no international accord should violate the constitution; all international treaties should be approved by referendum; the people reserve the right to rebel against the constitution even if this has been approved by a referendum; no entity such as civic committee, can take decisions affecting the country; if a Constitutional Assembly is convened, the executive and congress are automatically dissolved; the state is secular; the state has an executive and two parliamentary chambers; the creation of an ombudsman office and a constitutional tribunal; to promote and develop nuclear energy is the right of the state only.

Once again, these are some of the aspects included in the entire proposal, which is quite chaotic, I might add. The document can be found here for your own inspection.

Update: Here is a graph from La Razon, explaining the proposed government reform.

As you could read above, the structure should be heavily tilted towards giving power to the indigenous groups. However, it has many aspects that, to me, look contradictory. For example, the central government should be strong and 'unitary', yet many indigenous regions will be autonomous? The state should be pacifist, yet the government reserves the right to develop nuclear energy and gives Congress the power to declare war? War? The country is still divided by municipalities, but what are intercultural territories? or indigenous regions?

March 05, 2007

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: The First Debates

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It was on February 28, when the debate over the new constitution for Bolivia began. This first session accorded the organizational aspects and gave some initial space for the different parties to give a short introduction mentioning the most important aspects of their proposals on the future form of the Bolivian State.

The most important topics, concepts and principles mentioned included the autonomy issue, specially the results of the 2005 referendum. However, other parties called for indigenous autonomy as a way to reorganize the state. There were calls for creating a multinational state, recognizing the 36 different nationalities currently making up Bolivia, as well as their customs and rights. There were calls to change the social class system in society, to make the state the most important player in development, the creation of a fourth social government branch, the inclusion of the principle of solidarity, peace, order and the rule of law, and a parliamentary system. At the same time, it was said that the rights of the indigenous peoples had to be recognized, once and for all. Other proposals touched the issue of the legal capital of Bolivia, Sucre. And lastly, there were opinions saying that the state should be a communal state.

Subsequently, the assembly set the order of full presentations, which were to take up to three hours, and would start the next day.

  1. Movimiento Originario Popular (MOP)
  2. MNR-A3
  3. Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR)
  4. Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR)
  5. Poder Democrático Social (PODEMOS)
  6. Alianza Social Patriótica (ASP)
  7. Unidad Nacional (UN)
  8. Movimiento Bolivia Libre (MBL)
  9. Autonomía Para Bolivia (APB)
  10. MNR-FRI (Camino al Cambio)
  11. Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS)
  12. Movimiento San Felipe de Austria (MCSFA)
  13. Alianza Andrés Ibáñez (AAI)
  14. Alianza Social (AS)
  15. AYRA
  16. Concertación Nacional (CN)

March 04, 2007

Bolivian Constituent Assembly: Unidad Nacional Porposal

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With this post I start a process of documentation of the various proposals presented by the political groups to the Bolivian Constituent Assembly. These proposals are the fundamental criteria by which the Bolivian state will be defined, according to each political group. This time I start with Unidad Nacional (UN or National Unity), led by Samuel Doria Medina (SDM).

Here is what SDM said on the floor of the assembly on February 27, 2007.

Gracias señora Presidenta:

"Antes de comentar brevemente algunos de los temas mas importantes de la Visión de País, yo quisiera señalar de que hoy 27 de febrero estamos comenzando la fase real de la Asamblea Constituyente, tal vez el 6 de agosto fue la fase formal que iniciamos pero hoy estamos iniciando el trabajo verdadero de esta Asamblea Constituyente.

Yo primero quisiera compartir con ustedes algunos de los desafíos que tenemos en esta Asamblea Constituyente y en la Visión de País para poder cumplir nuestro trabajo exitosamente.

Primero creo que el primer desafío que tenemos es que la constitución formal que vamos a redactar en esta Asamblea Constituyente, para tener éxito, tiene que reflejar la Constitución real de nuestra nación, si logramos captar esa Constitución real de nuestro país en esta Constitución real que vamos a redactar, seguramente vamos a vencer un primer desafío que tenemos y vamos a tener una visión de país, del país que queremos para dejarles a nuestros hijos y a nuestros nietos.

Segundo desafío que tenemos, es que debemos resolver en esta Asamblea Constituyente un problema permanente de nuestro país, que ha sido el de no tener un proyecto nacional, un proyecto nacional de largo alcance, un proyecto nacional de unidad en la diversidad, un proyecto nacional de la diversidad regional, de la diversidad cultural, de la diversidad política, económica y social que tenemos en nuestro país.

Un tercer desafío es, que aquí en esta Asamblea Constituyente, tenemos que lograr como resultado de nuestro trabajo un proyecto nacional que refleje el acuerdo básico de todos los bolivianos, el acuerdo básico de todos los bolivianos aquí representados para construir un país diferente, un país que tenga desarrollo, que tenga equidad, que tenga justicia para todos los bolivianos.

Creo que estos tres desafíos tenemos que vencer en esta Asamblea Constituyente, tenemos que incorporar en nuestra visión de país para poder lograr nuestro trabajo de manera exitosa, yo quisiera mencionar de que en la propuesta de “UNIDAD NACIONAL” consideramos que fundamentalmente tenemos que llevar adelante tres cambios estructurales en nuestra Constitución.

Primer cambio, va ser el de cambiar el rol del Estado en la economía, ya no podemos tener más un Estado que sea testigo de lo que sucede en nuestro país, un testigo mudo, sino, necesitamos un Estado que pueda dirigir el rumbo estratégico del desarrollo de nuestra economía, tenemos como límite, no volver al pasado, no ir a lo que teníamos antes del año 85, un Estado con capitalismo de Estado monopólico, no queremos volver a ese lugar, pero tampoco queremos un Estado del 21060 a un Estado que sea testigo, que sea testigo de lo que sucede y no participe.

Un segundo cambio estructural que vamos a tener en nuestra Constitución tiene que ver con la forma de organizar nuestro Estado con las autonomías, no hay duda que la incorporación de las autonomías seguramente primero en cuatro departamentos y después en todo el país va ser otro de los cambios centrales en la nueva Constitución Política del Estado con el objeto de acercar el Estado a todos los ciudadanos en todos los confines de nuestra Patria.

Y finalmente, nosotros consideramos ya en los próximos días podremos exponer el tercer cambio central en esta nueva Constitución Política del Estado, va a ser incorporar mecanismos de control social, control social democrático racional, para que todos los ciudadanos, todas las ciudadanas puedan asegurarse que el Estado está cumpliendo el proyecto nacional que sea de todos los bolivianos.

Señora Presidenta, me quedo ahí, se me va cumplir ya el tiempo, pero creo que he dado algunos de los elementos que después podremos desarrollar como la propuesta de Visión de País.

I can briefly tell you that there are five tenets: First, the role of the state must increase; second, Bolivia must be a decentralized nation; third, there must be more social inclusion; fourth, the rules of democracy must be clearly laid out; and fifth, emphasis must be placed on economic development.

In this link you will find UN's document (also in Spanish) detailing its vision. It is a PDF document and I don't need to tell you that you need Adobe Reader to be able to see it. :-)

Translation was not done due to time constraints. If anybody would take the time to translate it, I would greatly appreciate it.

March 02, 2007

The Commissions in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly: Who Works on What Issues

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Now that the Constituent Assembly is on track again, it becomes important to know who is working on what issues. That is to say, the constitutional assembly process is organized in 21 commissions, each of which will consider, debate and come up with a consensuated text proposal to be included in the new social contract. For example there is a commission to discuss how will the Bolivian state look like in this new constitution, or what kind of decentralization/autonomic structure will the state have. These are important issues and have to be taken seriously. So far, and as you can observe on the graph, there are commissions, ranging from the vision of the state, to citizenship and nationality, rights, organization of the state, education, social development, economic development, specific topics like the hydrocarbons resources, land, environment, coca, security, indigenous issues, religion, etc. From the graph you can also see (click to enrage it) that the most important commissions by the number of people in it, is the territorial organization where the issues of autonomy and decentralization will be dealt with.

This neat little graph was created by the people at Apostamos por Bolivia. There is one thing though, I think they messed up on their sub total and total numbers, they just don't add up. Other than that the table is a good source of info.