February 10, 2008

Floods, Investment and Spying in Bolivia

MABB © ®

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!



Miguel, first at all it seems hilarious to me that to this date, after a year of the politically named “nationalization” a supposedly serious newspaper is finally understanding that all we had is a rise on taxes, which is what Jorge Quiroga from PODEMOS proposed during election campaign with his nationalization of the “price” of hydrocarbons. It will serve the paper better explaining how is politically efficient to lie to the people in order to gain their votes; some can really be very gullible.

Regarding the scholar issue, he wasn’t a scholar, he was a US Pace Corps, and apparently the stupid member of staff in the embassy did suggested, more than requested, for them to give information back to the embassy. If this is true is another clear example that the US doesn’t give a penny for our country and that is reflected in the quality of the embassy’s personnel. Anybody with a little experience dealing with the American US peace corps in Bolivia know that they are a bunch of socialistic, leftwing, anti capitalism, anti US government (no matter the party), extreme environmentalist and extreme indigenous rights bunch. They will sell their country for their, as you put it “principles” before giving any information to the embassy.

In the other hand, I have met a few of them that are so radical, and currently, so anti Bush; that there is a very good possibility that this kid is laying or greatly exaggerating. It is strange that being so many of them, only one is talking; very strange. I wouldn’t be surprise he is working under the maSSist agenda in this moment where they are in desperate need off anything that can possible diminish their guilt over the illicit proven spying on the opposition. An American saying that the US government ordered him to spy the regime’s friends in Bolivia will have a grate effect.

galloglass said...

Miguel: I agree that the Embassy official is a complete moron. But this kid has opened up a whole can of worms. Bolivia Libre is right, this is some snot-nosed leftwinger who is going to make PCVs and Fulbrighters, if not Americans personas non grata in Bolivia. If he had a problem he should have told the embassy official at that time. The official wasn't very "diplomatic" but the kid could have been.

miguel (mabb) said...

Bolivia libre: Well, not quite. Mesa/Evo's nationalization also meant to give the monopoly of distribution and commercialization to YPFB. Now that YPFB does not have yet the capacity to do this is another issue. But, I think it is more than just a rise on the taxes.

But, yes, the Morales government wasn't entirely truthful when it attributed to itself the nationalization. Part of the nationalization had already happened with Mesa.

Also, the kid is a fullbright recipient and is there to do field work. I think he is a scholar. Now, you say something that makes me curious. Why do you suggest that the US embassy's personnel is no good? Care to elaborate?

I think there is one thing that the world does not understand about American foreign policy. The American government takes the "take care of our interests first" approach. That means, countries work together with their own interests in mind. That is how they come to agreements where it is positive for both. That approach is seen as selfish around the world, but it is really not.

galloglas: I think American citizens in general are already having trouble with their images in Bolivia. In a way, I would think this might improve the image. :-)

But, you are right, the kid could have been more diplomatic and not sell out his country like that. However, the lure of being in AP all around the world might be tempting...

The thing is, this might turn into another American shameful faux pas and the ground for yet another cool down of the diplomatic relationship between the US and Bolivia. On the other hand, this might be positive for the Morales government. It will put the US government under pressure to renew the ATPDEA so it doesn't seem like the US is abandoning or giving up on Bolivia.

Anonymous said...

"why are the foreign companies still staying and even pledging more investment?"

Gas is still undervalued, and it's not easy to import from far away. Along from the sometimes harsh rhetoric and soldiers in the gas fields, investors are still getting a reasonable deal and growing markets in the region. Apart from that, Bolivia's neighbors need relatively cheap energy and do not for now have ideological reasons to turn their backs on Evo.



Miguel, you are talking about the monopoly within the cities; the government actually took away the contracts of the only 100% Bolivian companies that provided de service to the transnational’s. Most of them cut a new deal with YPFB, a great deal for them because now they don’t have to work under the strict safety standards of the international companies; a lousy deal for the workers because the pay is the same but the maintenance of their equipment and care of the people had greatly diminished. I know it first hand because I have to relatives working with combustible transportation.

Neither Mesa nor Evo nationalized anything; the closest we got to it was the buying of the refineries by Evo; at the price given by Petrobras. Now again, with this move, the maSSist gained political momentum, Petrobras got rid off old refineries that need a lot of investment to get them to work under international standards and the workers where screwed because the overall standards went to the drainage.

You are right about the kid, if the Bolivian press doesn’t change their mind again, when I wrote my comments they said he was with the Peace Corps, now they said Fulbright. I still have my doubts of why only one come out with this “true”, which represents an as under the regime’s hand. Unless the US embassy publicly accepts a wrong doing from their staff, I will believe he is a sell out to Evo’s agenda.

Respecting to the US embassy being no good, it is just a supposition, remember the disastrous comments of the US ambassador that pumped Evo to political notoriety for his comments in El Chapare? I personally don’t think the US embassy in Bolivia have the best possible staff, because I don’t see the US really interested in us. We represent nothing to them, our doings affect nothing in their economy and Evo isn’t strong enough to control things within Bolivia, much less to bother the US. That is just as I see it.

John, only Brazil is somehow dependent of Bolivian gas, in the actuality we are loosing millions of dollars because we cannot even fulfill our contract to feed gas to Cuiaba. Much less we have capability to feed Argentina with what they are requesting unless there are investments. In the 2 years of Evo we had less oilfield drilling than in the 1 year of Tuto, this is pathetic and a prove that in relation to hydrocarbons we are “dependable” of foreign investment.

Miguel A. Buitrago said...

It is not only in the cities, it is nationally. The monopoly is good for the entire Bolivian territory. And you are right, the contractors were Bolivian companies, who now have a contract with YPFB. About the condition for the workers themselves, you might be able to tell us more about your relative's experiences.

Well, what Mesa and Evo did was one kind of nationalization. We are not talking here about confiscation, but nationalization by buying back at a government set price, with out the option to say no by the companies. The companies (andina and chaco) actually transfered their shares to YPFB.

Check La Razon today, apparently the embassy has released a statement admitting one of the personnel did such a request without being policy. According to La Razon, that person is now being recalled to Washington.

Well, I would argue Brazil and Argentina are pretty dependent on Bolivian gas. There is a reason why they are asking Bolivia to increase supply.

I also think that Lula is staying in Bolivia because he is so dependent on Bolivian gas. Politically, he wants to counter Hugo's weight on Morales. If he leaves, he won't have a way to influence politics in the region. Let's remember, Brazil is a regional power and wants to be seen as global power. A bit of IR in the mix... :-)

mcentellas said...

I just posted about this myself. Also, the Gringo Tambo blog (mostly ex-Fulbrighters) has also posted here:


I think the kid screwed up and wasn't very wise in how he handled this. And the embassy certainly screwed up, for sure. But this kid perhaps jumped the gun and has now made it hard (if not dangerous!) for some fellow researchers still in the field.

But ... I've been to these briefings (I'm a former Fulbright fellow in Bolivia). The problem is that they're attended by a mix of people -- including embassy staff (who would be required to have those instructions, I suppose).


Miguel, the distribution of liquid combustible Monopoly really begins now, under YPFB; Since Petrobras didn’t have the control of the imported diesel from Argentina. But just to keep it simple, the “nationalized” Bolivian companies that distributed the Petrobras’ refineries products under Petrobras contract where controlled be Petrobra’s safety engineers. That is, the trucks were in good condition, and all loading and unloading was performed under international standards. The workers had all contracts and health insurance. Today under YPFB there are a lot of trucks that don’t have any condition to transport this dangerous material safely, but belong with someone with “connections” within the maSSist arena. Contracts and health insurance no more, for the drivers; and they are being paid, again, half their salary legally and half under the table; whenever the company can because YPFB doesn’t pay on time like Petrobras did. I was being told that at least they do pay within the month.

I don’t know what you mean about the transferring of shares of Andina (part of Repsol) and Chaco (BP); those two companies do not belong to YPFB nor does the Bolivian government have a majority of their shares; they are still under Repsol and BP control.

About the American kid, everything is got cleared, the US embassy didn’t ask him to spy but they did warn them that the Cubans and Venezuelans in Bolivia might not be the doctors and teachers they said they are and that if something strange is noted they should inform the embassy; So to keep the rest of the Americans in those out of the city areas safe. The kid is well know among his peers, I actually spoke with 2 of them, of being anti Bush, anti globalization and extremely pro Evo, even before arriving to the Country. The journalist that first opened this Pandora box has also published extensively pro Evo.

I must give the maSSist a tip in the hat for being able to masterfully use a US citizen to screw his country in order to create a smoke curtain around the real spying from the regime against the country’s freedom fighters and familiars. Another great move was to “accept” the US explications right now, when the information of the young traitor is being dig down so most people will not have the time to think about this being elaborated by the regime; I hope maybe they are a little to late for that.

Anonymous said...

Mayors from around the country are meeting in Tarija today to talk about constitution and IDH.

Anonymous said...

Mayors from around the country are meeting in Tarija today to talk about constitution and IDH. Thursday, 14feb, that is.

Anonymous said...

See this BBC report about Cuban doctors in Bolivia. Suggests that US wants information on Cubans (and maybe Venezuelans) in order to help them defect, not because they are threats to Bolivian security.


I was also interested in this observation about Cubans in Bolivia.


To the extent that Cuban health personnel work in deep rural areas, I'm pretty sure they're providing a service that would not otherwise be offered.

miguel (mabb) said...

Thank you for the tips.