February 29, 2008

In Bolivia, Canaval is Over. Now, Business as Usual.

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Now that Christmas, Alasaitas and Carnaval are over, it is business as usual in Bolivian Politics. It seems that the crisis is hitting back with vengeance.

What's going on?

Well, the government has apparently gotten tired of talking and has decided to "push" through its will. Yesterday, the government faction in Congress "approved" three laws, with the help of a ring of security supporters outside the parliament building. Opposition parliamentarians could not enter the building. So, the government approved the referendum law which will ratify the new constitution, the referendum law which will ask people on how large the property of land can be and modified a law which was being interpreted by the departmental governments giving them power to call for referendums. The modification of the last law, of course, is giving the central government the exclusive power to call on such referendums.

As you might expect, the opposition is going ahead with their own autonomic referenda. All of these are supposed to happen on May 4th. The opposition has also said, in unison, that they will resist the government to the last consequences. Here comes the question: violence too?

In Cochabamba, the police force is on strike. They want better wages and work conditions. Usually, when the police strikes, is when Bolivia enters dark periods. The security is just not there, and many people have no scruples on taking advantage of that.

Also, there is shortage of food, especially in La Paz. The government is trying import basic foods, such as flower, but smugglers and hoarders are making the government's plans to fail. The government is trying to crack down on smugglers, but without much success. It is also trying to control prices. Now, the bakers are in a strike and are refusing to make the basic bread in La Paz, the Marraqueta. This has been a very effective way of pressure because Marraquetas are the very basic food in La Paz and the rest of the country.

Slowly but surely, marches, demonstrations and strikes are returning to be the order of the day. hard times are coming. We'll just have to stay alert.

February 18, 2008

Obama and Clinto: Ambivalence Is the Word When It Comes to Latin America

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Andres Oppenheimer, an opinionated journalist at the El Nuevo Herald in Miami, has an interesting op-ed article where he contrasts Obama's and Clinton's stands against Latin America. Who is better for the region? he asks... (in Spanish).

Mi opinión: En general, tanto Obama como Clinton serían mejores que McCain para Latinoamérica en materia de inmigración (un tema clave para México y Centroamérica), y peores que McCain en materia de comercio (un tema clave para Panamá, Colombia y los países que quieren firmar acuerdos de libre comercio con Washington DC).

Entre Obama y Clinton, él representa el cambio con algunos riesgos por su inexperiencia, y ella representa una reforma marginal con mayor certidumbre.

La prueba decisiva será cuál de ellos estaría dispuesto a designar al primer Secretario de Estado hispano. Ahora que Estados Unidos ha tenido dos Secretarios de Estado afroamericanos, uno tras otro, tal vez haya llegado el momento de elegir uno que sea parte del mayor grupo minoritario de Estados Unidos, que esté compenetrado con una de las regiones más importantes --y menos tomadas en cuenta-- para los intereses estadounidenses.

In his opinion, both would be better than McCain on immigration, but worst on trade. The decisive thing would be who designates the first Latino Secretary of State. Although, he does make a reference at Obama's lack of experience vs. Clinton's experience with Latin America.

February 10, 2008

Floods, Investment and Spying in Bolivia

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At present time, with the celebrations of carnival, there is not much going on politically in Bolivia. The news are coming from the weather side. The department of Beni, which is practically in the Amazone region, has been suffering flooding through the endless rains. The departments is significantly flooded by the waters of two rivers. Some images can be seen at the BBC News website.

Bolivian newspapers report that this is one of the worst floods in Beni's history and that the waters will keep on rising another 50 cm.

On another news, the Washington Post has an article on foreign investment in the energy sector. It pretty much echoes what I have been saying or noticing on this issues. The question was, if the natural gas sector has been nationalized, why are the foreign companies still staying and even pledging more investment?

Here is the article, see what you think about it.

Last but not least, there is this young scholar saying he has been asked by officials of the American Embassy in Bolivia to keep tap on Venezuelan and Cuban volunteers and report the names and what they are doing to the embassy. He, the scholar, has said it to the AP. He sounds outraged that his government would ask him to do such a thing.

First of all, what a moron... No, not the young scholar, but the embassy official. What a careless request, at such a fragile time between the relations of the US and Bolivia. What kind of people are working there, I ask myself.

And second, good for the young scholar. He's got principles. I guess he showed them.

I looked for a reaction on the US Embassy in Bolivia, but I couldn't find one. And, apparently there was not too much interest from the Bolivian press either.

Waiting for reactions!