July 04, 2008

Attempting to Renew the Relationship USA-Bolivia

MABB © ®

After a heavy exchange of words between the Bolivian government and the US diplomatic service and State, there seems to be a renewed attempt at detente and rapprochement. In the last days, the US Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg and interim Secretary of State (in Bolivia called Canciller or Chancellor) met to discuss the relationship and make amends. After the meeting, the two sides felt it necessary to acknowledge that there was a problem and to then work to solve it or them. As such, there is an agenda, which will guide the upcoming conversations. The agenda looks like this:

Agenda Estados Unidos – Bolivia

1) Diálogo Político

- Relaciones de mutuo respeto y no intervención en asuntos internos

- Situación internacional hemisférica

2) Cooperación

- Mecanismos que aseguren la compatibilidad con el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo

- Transparencia y control estatal

- Programas de cooperación

- Evaluación conjunta de los impactos de la cooperación

- Cuenta del Milenio

3) Comercio


- Acuerdo Comercial Asimétrico de largo aliento

4) Cooperación judicial

- Caso Sánchez de Lozada, Sánchez Berzaín y Berindoague

- Caso Arce Gómez

5) Lucha contra el narcotráfico

- Desarrollo Integral

- Interdicción, NAS, FELCN

6) Cooperación en temas migratorios

- Programa conjunto de Derechos humanos de migrantes bolivianos en Estados Unidos

- Cooperación en el ejercicio de del derecho al voto en el exterior (EE.UU.)

- Cédula de registro consular

7) Otros temas

Agenda US – Bolivia

1) Political Dialog

- Mutual respect relations and no meddling in internal affairs

- International hemispheric situation

2) Cooperation

- Mechanisms that will assure the compatibility with the National Development Plan

- Transparency and state control

- Cooperation programs

- Joint evaluation of the cooperation’s impacts

- Millennium account

3) Commerce


- Long run asymmetric commercial agreement

4) Judicial cooperation

- Sanchez de Lozada, Sanchez Berzain and Berindoague cases

- Arce Gomez case

5) Drug trafficking fight

- Integral development

- Interdiction, NAS, FELCN

6) Cooperation on immigration topics

- Human rights joint program for Bolivian migrants in the US

- Cooperation in the topic of absentee voting (in US)

7) Other topics (USAID perhaps?)

The topics seem too general and vague to me, but usual in such situations, I guess. The two issues I expect to dominate the agenda and the consultations or conversations (however you want to call them) are the issue of Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain and the one about meddling in internal affairs.

On the first issue is clear that the government wants to keep its promise to bring to Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain to justice. This has been a point present in almost every demand coming from the MAS supporters. If the US delivers these two people to the Bolivian government it would be able to say it fulfilled its promises.

The second issue is key for Morales and brings us into a more complex conversation. He seems to be convinced the US is working to topple his government. The funny thing is, he might not be way too off with this. Let's consider what the US says in its website. It states as its common goals for the relationship with Bolivia thus: "Some of the most important areas of bi-lateral assistance are: the strengthening of Bolivian democracy, economic prosperity, expanding U.S. exports and investments, improved family health conditions, counternarcotics efforts, and promoting alternative development in coca-producing regions as well as environmental protection."

If you look at some of these goals, in principle, they run contrary to what the Morales government is trying to achieve, i.e. they are contrary to Morales' goals. For example, if we take the goal of economic prosperity. Here we have to think about how does the US think economic prosperity comes along. A rapid and simplistic way to put it, nonetheless true, is to say that, in general, the US thinks economic prosperity is the result of commercial exchange, accumulation of capital, investment, free economy, etc. I can already hear Morales, all red and irked, yelling capitalst, neoliberal, imperialist. Take the goal of expanding US exports and investment, for example. This would be imperialist noise in Morales' ears. I think, more than Morales' ear, the ears of those around him would suffocate in an instant. In essence, there is a fundamental difference on how does the US thinks all these goals should be achieved, and what the Morales camp thinks they should be achieved.

The difference, I think is in the approach to such problems. On the one side, I think the US bases its approach on the 1+1=3 principle. In general terms, I argue, as usual. First and foremost are the national interests. I should cooperate with people, or in this case with nations, making sure I also benefit. Or put it in another way, I want to cooperate with you, but my expectation is that through that cooperation I will get something too. In the most extreme case, I will not do anything that would be disadvantageous for me. So, the US cooperates with other nations, as well as with Bolivia, based on "mutual" cooperation and "mutual" benefits expectations. I won't get on the question if this approach is good or not. That is for another post.

On the other side, although it is not entirely clear, it seems to me that the Morales government wants, or shall I say expects, cooperation in a "communal" sense. That would mean that the whole is more important than the individual. For a region such as America (the new world) that would mean that all nations cooperate disinterestedly, some times even at own costs. That way, Venezuela subsidizes gas, diesel and oil to the detriment of its own economy; Bolivia sells natural (at least it used to) gas to Brazil and Argentina at solidary prices; that would involve the US donating money without asking in exchange the opening of markets or the development of commercial networks.

The two, almost antagonist, way to approach these issues provoke friction when it comes to the diplomatic relations between the US and Bolivia. The Bolivian government feels apprehensive and distrustful, to say the least, with how the US sees and carries out these diplomatic relations. Both are, at least should be, aware of the differences, and hopefully now that they recognized there are problems, they'll be able to move forward in a more positive path.


The Neither Party said...

While not agreeing nor totally disagreeing with your assessments, I believe an additional consideration is very important--that of transparency--that the US will try at all costs to avoid.
Transparency would reveal the ways the US has indeed meddled in the internal affairs of Bolivia, and show where the US money went, and the usage of it to foment autonomy and the divisiveness which only serves to allow continued 'divide and rule' policies.
I would argue that it is a very important consideration for Bolivia; perhaps even the most important one.

mabb said...

While I don't want to defend the US, because it has meddled in the internal affairs of many countries in South America, I have to say that this situation is a bit easy for the US.

And I am not disagreeing with your argument, because it gets to the core of what I say. If you would take a look at how the money is being spent, and there are some numbers, to some extent one can see these efforts or money are funding projects that have to do with supporting entrepreneurship and the development of commerce. And, yes, these projects are heavily located in Santa Cruz, but also in El Alto. So to a certain extent, the Morales government is right in saying this money is funding the opposition, since these people are working in the current system that Morales calls capitalist.

In that sense, the support for the opposition is an indirect result of the goals of fighting poverty through markets and commerce development efforts.

Now, I am not saying there are not direct attempts at financing the opposition. I would venture to guess, that based on Morales' own actions (such as nationalization, the passing of his constitution, his discourse, etc.) he does't seem too committed to democracy in the eyes of the American government.

The Neither Party said...

Interesting comment you made. First you claimed not wanting to defend the US, and then that’s all that you did, even while admitting that the US “has meddled in the internal affairs of many countries in South America,” and sort-of inferring that it is not doing so now in Bolivia, too. (Like the US finally found religion, and then promised oh-so solemnly to stop killing brown people; and stopped—with a military all dressed up and no where to go; with an economy geared as Ike warned us about, around the military industrial complex that the parties, leaders, lobbyists and politicians are all beholden to (and rumored to be somewhat resistant to change). Your nuances are noted and appreciated.
Next, you interestingly seem to use both the old definition and the newly bastardized definition of the word ‘democracy’. Today, the word means little more than wide-open borders regarding trade especially, and no laws with which to resist rapacious exploitation by the powerful, usually at the expense of the weak; and accompanied by what is widely known as ‘economic neo-liberalism’.
The old definition--government by the people with respect for individuality and legal equality within the community--isn't used much any more, at least by the USA. The word's meaning has been essentially high-jacked and co-opted to be used in a way almost opposite its original intent. Your use of both definitions is in my opinion, obfuscating, whether deliberate or not.
Another obfuscation is when you use terms such as “supporting entrepreneurship and the development of commerce” while suggesting such goals are only found in capitalism, and that Morales is against them. I beg to differ. There are many efforts directed to those ends that have been allowed, if not initiated and encouraged under his governance. That is capitalism with a small ‘c’, and I have seen nothing to suggest--let alone prove--that he is against those ‘capitalist’ activities—have you?
Capitalism with a capital ‘C’ is a different critter altogether, and is what I believe Morales is against. “C” consists of unmitigated rampant exploitation and the accumulation of unlimited wealth, often through monopoly, bribes or other forms of corruption, and whenever possible, with little or no compensation to those whose resources are being exploited. That is why Morales ‘nationalized’ some of the corporate enterprises in Bolivia—to get Bolivia’s fair share of the profits, at long-last—and as far as I can tell, he is compensating those businesses or buying controlling interests in them outright if they fail to comply with what is Bolivian law. Do you have any proof to the contrary, other than those who violated the terms of their agreement/contract, and were punished for doing so? I mean, shouldn’t there be punishment for a corporation, a legal person in most legal respects, applicable for breaking Bolivian law? Like losing all their illegally gotten stuff at least? Like being glad they’re able to escape with their lives? (Or maybe that is a somewhat harsh and unduly punitive position for me to hold regarding treason—you decide.)
Your final obfuscation is when--while not denying (nor admitting to) US’ “direct attempts at financing the opposition,” you seem to rationalize its legality/legitimacy with this: “based on Morales' own actions (such as nationalization, the passing of his constitution, his discourse, etc.)” and then reverting to the new definition of democracy by claiming “he doesn't seem too committed to democracy in the eyes of the American government,” as if to suggest that his actions were in fact anti-democratic, and therefore the US somehow then has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation while somehow conveniently forgetting that Pres. Morales was the most popularly-elected president in Bolivia’s history?
This election, especially with fair and impartial international observers honest and present, I hope will give President Morales the necessary mandate to enact the changes most of Bolivia sees as being long overdue. And if I were Evo, somehow I’d find a way to do so...pronto.
Perhaps “meanings” is where we seem to have our differences. While you seem to believe that democracy means something like the unlimited freedom to dominate others, I believe in the old meaning—that it is government by the people, with respect for individuality and legal equality within the community—and is exemplified in part, by Evo’s “nationalization, the passing of his constitution, his discourse, etc.”—which you suggest might not be “democracy in the eyes of the American government.”
You are correct, of course.
The only ‘democracy-meaning’ the US government recognizes, is the new meaning of the word—free and unfettered business opportunities to exploit all else and all others—in a manner used intentionally to distract from the fact that it has totally abandoned the old meaning of the word—where values promoting government by the people with respect for individuality and legal equality within the community--reigned supreme; not the dictum that ‘might makes right’. Whaddyathink? Make any sense?
mabb,,,you’ll correct me where I’m wrong, of course?
Skeptically ,,,John

mcentellas said...

The issue of US "interference" in other countries is always a tricky one. On the one hand, I think we can all agree that the kind of interference that led to the fall of Allende is bad. But most countries routinely "interfere" in other countries' affairs. And usually on the basis of their own government interests/principles.

Is the US giving vocal support to Morales' opposition? Sure. Is it giving financial support to his opponents? That's not clear. Of course, through US-funded NGOs, many intellectuals who may not agree w/ Morales may be funded on various development programs. But I'm not sure that's the same thing as active "support" for the opposition.

Meanwhile, countries as diverse as Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and several others have also spent money in Bolivia, or given statements supporting one side or another. Bolivia is today flooded by Venezuelan checks, donated directly to Morales as personal checks, which are then handed out to local authorities, schools, even police units. Interference?

Or how about Morales' own interference recently in Peru's trade relations w/ the US? Or his comments about the EU (where he rightfully criticized a draconian immigration policy)?

The point is that we shouldn't expect the US to never interfere in any country. We should hope that it's interference is positive engagement, rather than immoral or counterproductive meddling. But the "fact" that it engages w/ other countries (in other words, that the US has a foreign policy at all!) shouldn't be taken as "proof" that it is intent on subjugating foreign peoples.

It's also important to read arguments w/ more nuance—and care. When MABB wrote: “[Morales] doesn't seem too committed to democracy in the eyes of the American government,” I didn't take it to mean that MABB necessarily thinks Evo is undemocratic. If you read it carefully, he says that IN THE EYES OF THE US GOVERNMENT (subject A) Morales (subject B) is undemocratic. Rather than a statement about how MABB feels about Morales, it was a statement about how A feels about B. That's called analysis. Let's not let our own subjective views prevent us from engaging in objective analysis.

I'll concede that the US has done terrible things in the past. And that it's foreign policy is in many ways "imperial" (as many foreign policy scholars have noted). But that doesn't meant that EVERYTHING the US does is wrong, regardless of whether it is doing wrong in Bolivia now or not. We must try to avoid sweeping generalizations such as those.

Gringo said...

The issue of US "interference" in other countries is always a tricky one. On the one hand, I think we can all agree that the kind of interference that led to the fall of Allende is bad.

It would be interesting to find out what proportion of the people who talk about “US interference in Chile” are aware of the “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy.” An excerpt follows.

"5. That it is a fact that the current government of the Republic, from the beginning, has sought to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the state and, in this manner, fulfilling the goal of establishing a totalitarian system: the absolute opposite of the representative democracy established by the Constitution;
6. That to achieve this end, the administration has committed not isolated violations of the Constitution and the laws of the land, rather it has made such violations a permanent system of conduct, to such an extreme that it systematically ignores and breaches the proper role of the other branches of government…"

This passed by an 81-47 vote, a commanding 63% majority, three weeks before the coup against Allende.

I am not going to post any more on the issue. Those who wish to learn, will do so. Those who refuse to challenge their preconceptions, will do so. The previous sentence is not directed at the two Miguels, as they have long indicated a willingness to challenge their preconceptions. I posting this simply to point out that tragedies such as the fall of democracy in Chile are not composed of cardboard cut-outs.

I sign myself off as Gringo, a former leftist.

mcentellas said...

In "The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Chile" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) Arturo Valenzuela made an interesting comparison between Allende's Chile and the Weimar Republic. Without discounting the role of the US, Valenzuela (who wrote the book while in exile after the Pinochet coup, btw) argues that Chile's democratic collapse was in large measure the fault of hyper-polarization in Chilean society.

My biggest problem w/ the argument that the US can be blamed for all the dictatorships of the 1960s-1980s in Latin America is twofold:

1) It strips Latin Americans of agency altogether, as if they can only thrive/fail depending on what the US does. In other words, such a perspective treats Latin Americans as little better than children, incapable of making their own choices.

2) It ignores the long history of military repression, violence, and popular upheaval that dates back to the early 1800s (and the pre-independence period!) that existed long before the US had any influence in the region. Again, such a historical blindness is based on an bizarre level of self-centerdness, as if one need only look to the US to understand international events (which brings us back to the problem of agency).

I'd hope those w/ opinions about Bolivia today would not just focus on Washington's policy towards Bolivia, but would also immerse themselves in Bolivian history. Because it's not always about the US.

mabb said...

Neither party:
I think you are reading too much in my words. I am not trying to imply anything, I just mean what is written.

Also, my definition of democracy begins in Dahl's polyarchy to progress to Diamond's definition of democracy. And, I should not forget Stephan, O'Donnell, Schmitter, Schumpeter, Whitehead, Sartori and Linz. I am just saying that my definition is not as simple as new or old, black or white. Democracy is a bit more than a word for me.

But, yes, there is the idea of liberal democracy, which is what Diamond argues for. This concept does include the idea of open markets and commerce among nations. That, I don't necessarily think is bad. Now, as with everything, it has its bad and good aspects. But that is a conversation for another time.

To my second "obfuscation", if you read (carefully) the end of the fifth paragraph, you'll see that I state that there is a "fundamental difference" in what the US thinks development is achieved and what the Morales government thinks how development should be achieved. This basically agrees with your capital c and small c argument. It is just said in a different form. Now, I try not to put some value on it, but I do admit I am skeptical of Morales' version. For one, Morales' idea of the omnipresence and all-powerful role of the state, is of worry to me. Just to clarify, I equally skeptical of the role of the big corporations. That is why, I don't necessarily find the nationalization of 'some' energy companies as a bad move. Finally, about the kind of punishment to alleged 'criminal' corporations, I will not comment. I just think that is a bit radical on your part. But, there is one think I want to clear up. I am trying, very hard, to stay away from making any kind of emotional judgments. I know is hard to do so, but a must for me.

And as far as my last "obfuscation", I think I am being misunderstood. And, I thank mcentellas for the clarification. What I try to say in the post is that "in the eyes of America", Morales seems undemocratic, and that prompts a certain reaction. Also, I do not think that any nation has the right to intervene in the affairs of another nation. Now, that they regularly do, is another question. This comes from the realist perspective.

And by any means, I have such a simplistic notion of democracy. In short, for me, democracy is a complex process which has an end rather than a state.

The Neither Party said...

@mabb,,,I thank you for your clarifications. I can see that we now mostly agree, notwithstanding some claims such as your assertion of "Morales' idea of the omnipresence and all-powerful role of the state" in your most recent post; and "to a certain extent, the Morales government is right in saying this money is funding the opposition, since these people are working in the current system that Morales calls capitalist" in your earlier post, which suggests that Morales is against all capitalism, including both "C" types. I see no proof of that in either word or deed from Morales. What I suggested instead, was that Morales is for 'small 'c' capitalism, and against the capital 'C' type favored by the US in word and deed, and I see nothing to dispute that assertion.
We all understand and seem to admit that the US has in the past, used its power and influence in terribly destructive ways in most nations South of her border, the only real difference between us being the proof of how that money is used today in Bolivia. That is why my first post suggesting complete US 'transparency' in their funding of Bolivia, including NGOs, was so very important. I realize that just because the US has intentionally interfered in the internal affairs of most SA nations in the past, it is not proof they are doing so today. Perhaps a tiger can change its stripes after all (but I doubt it).
So gratefully, it seems we mostly agree.
@mcentellas,,,Your "the argument that the US can be blamed for all the dictatorships of the 1960s-1980s in Latin America" is only one of a number of 'straw man' arguments, in that I see no one having suggested that here, even while all of us have noted that the US has done that repeatedly in the past.
While you seem to want to give the US a pass on this, I look to past deeds as being predictive of future deeds. Perhaps this might further illustrate the roots of my skepticism regarding US' supposedly benevolent intent: http://www.zompist.com/latam.html ; http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/US_ThirdWorld/dictators.html (Note it was written 13 years ago, so the list is incomplete.) And this: http://www2.truman.edu/~marc/resources/interventions.html for only partial overviews.
Please note that the above are overt interferences in the internal affairs of other supposedly sovereign nations, and do not include the far-more-numerous covert interventions by the US, through the CIA, and as described by John Perkins in his book "Economic Hit Man" other supposedly non-government-implemented NGOs, only a few of which Perkins also details.
Is it any wonder why I remain very skeptical regarding US' supposed benevolent intent? Typically, the proof comes out far too late to help (in this case) Bolivia, Morales or any Bolivians not well-connected to the 'evil empire', no matter their intent.
Please also note that my holding of such views does not make me ‘anti-USA’, but rather ‘anti-imperialist’. Most people south of the border, understand that most US citizens do not want our government interfering with other nation’s sovereignty, and fail to understand why we allow it.
My answer is that most of the US is purposely kept uninformed about what our government really does, while actions taken are either secret, or disguised as being against certain ‘totalitarian regimes’ (even while supporting others); or the ‘war on drugs’ (even while huge unaccountable profits are made (a la Iran-contra); or the current excuse du jour, the ‘war on terrorism’(discounting US-made terrorism such as the bombing of the democratically-elected Arbenz) and many other more recent examples.
As I have seen no proof of change in either US policy or ambitions, I see my skepticism as realism, with no need to give the US the benefit of the doubt, while awaiting proof to the contrary. I see no reason to ‘stick my fingers into the wound’, as the sight of the oozing and the resultant stench is all too apparent. At least to me, that is.

The Neither Party said...

Immediately after posting the above, I read this from another's perspective--a socialist point of view--that argues that Morales is too much of a capitalist to lead Bolivia to real democratic reform. It is a review of Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson's book entitled "REVOLUTIONARY HORIZONS: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics", and is found here:
The reviewer criticizes Morales' efforts, yet curiously does not even mention once any US involvement or the USA's hand in the ongoing struggles.
Interesting,,,no? Thoughts??

mcentellas said...

@NeitherParty: You argued against my use of a straw man argument by present a version of that straw man as your argument. I don't discount that the US was involved (negatively) in Latin American in the past (or perhaps even in the present/future). My argument was merely that it's more useful (in my opinion) to look at internal dynamics w/in countries to understand their politics than to merely look at the role of the US. As the saying goes: "It's not always about you."

Aaron said...

Yes, I would call some of Evo's actions undemocratic. I define democracy as the laws which allow everyone to have their say in their government. Laws which create rule by majority, while respecting minority rights.

He has supported the blockading of congress by "social movements" to keep out the opposition during a vote.

When the opposition blocked his constitution, he voted without them in a new location so quickly that even supporters didn't get a chance to read it and remove mistakes. Yes the opposition was doing its best to stop it, but that is the right of an opposition. when you try to pass a constitution you set yourself a lofty goal. It would have been correct to go back cut a few hundred pages off the constitution and pass the rest later if you can through law. 2/3 vote for a constitution isn't a crazy demand for such a document. It protects the right of the minority and also strengthens the document.

Has interfered with pretty much all the court's independence.

I am surprised that the autonomist prefects eventually went along with a horribly one sided recall. (except for Manfred)
Very democratic.

mabb said...

I am glad I made myself clear(er).

I wouldn't label Morales capitalist of any kind, at least I wouldn't say it to his face. I think he's got a very different idea of commerce, investment and entrepreneurship, etc. First of all, capitalism for me is more of a private endeavor, while Morales has more of a corporatist even communal definition of (like I said above) commerce, investment, production, distribution of wealth, etc.

But, that doesn't mean he does not think some type of commerce, ... are good or useful. I would just not call it capitalism.

I think external intervention from one country to another will take place anyway. Yes, the US has meddled in the affairs of other nations (around the world) very much so. But, I would just say, that is part of the reality. I think if Bolivia wants US aid, it has to come to terms that aid doesn't come for free. If he doesn't want the US meddling in his affairs, he should tell the US, thank you, but no thanks. Now, that is easier said than done, I admit. But, I think that is exactly what Morales is doing.

And I agree, transparency is important.

Gringo said...

How much notice has been given in the Bolivian press to the latest examples of Chavista Imperialism?

It is ironic that Thugo plans to eventually donate the cars to Bolivian NGOs, given the rancor that Thugo has expressed towards NGOs in Venezuela.

As Daniel points out in this posting, Venezuelans may well replace Argentines and Chileans in the affections of Bolivian nationalists. Or is this not accurate?

Miguel: are you still in Bolivia?

miguel said...

Bolivians are busy right now with the alleged fraud brewing in the oncoming recall referendum. The attention is on Venezuela's assistance to the Bolivian government. On Hugo's activities, there is less attention. Unless, of course, he goes for a visit.

And no, I am not in Bolivia right now.