January 20, 2008

The New Man in the Senate

MABB © ®

This is Senator Oscar Ortiz (PODEMOS) from Santa Cruz, former president of CAINCO and now the newly elected president of the Senate chamber. He is also the man that could (most likely will) turn into a thorn in Morales' side. It seems as though, out of the 27 seats in the chamber, the opposition has 15 votes, the government has only 10 votes and there are two dissidents from the government's party, MAS, Guido Guardia (Sta. Cruz, former ADN and UCS) y Gerald Ortiz (Sucre). Ortiz's presidency will run for the 2008-2009 legislative period.

His Vice president is the outgoing president, Jose Villavicencio (UN), and the second Vice president is the MAS Senator, Antonio Peredo.This means the government has come out significantly weaker from this new election, and the opposition has gained in strength.

According to some press reports, Ortiz (along with Senators Jorge Aguilera, Walter Guiteras, Roger Pinto y Roberto Ruiz) represents the most conservative wing within PODEMOS, which is under the leadership of Senator Walter Guiteras. The moderate wing is led by Senator from Oruro, Carlos Böhrt. This is significant because it means the Senate is likely to pursue a harder line against the government, and therefore there is a greater likelihood of colliding with it. In addition, in order to maintain the majority within the chamber, PODEMOS (with 13 seats) has to secure the support of the Senators from MNR, Miguel Majluf and UN, Jose Villavicencio. This latter Senator or party, has the tendency to swing, at times, towards MAS in certain issues. The argument is "to balance" the decisions. The fear is that a hard liner like Ortiz could drive the Senator of UN towards MAS.

No one knows, of course, how will this play in the next year, but all bets within Bolivian observers are for a stronger polarization and collision between the Senate and the government.