December 30, 2010

Gasolinazo y Tarifazo!

MABB © ®

What seemed to be the beginning of the end for the Mesa presidency, the removal of fuel subsidies in December 31, 2004, could turn into the beginning of the end of the Morales era?

This FB album shows what is going on in the ground.

August 13, 2010

The First Serious Test for Morales?

MABB © ®

Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, has had a relatively peaceful first term in office (2006 - 2010). Eight months into his second term, which for him is just his first term because of the new constitution, he has his first serious challenge in his hands. Civic organizations in the department of Potosi are into their 16th day of hunger strike, street blockades and general strike. These actions have stranded many international tourists, to the point that some had to be taken out due to health reasons, and the citizens are starting to suffer shortages of food.

The Comité Civico Potosinista (Comcipo - Potosi Civic Committee), an umbrella organization comprising of 28 other organizations and six provinces in Potosi, has been leading the actions. These organization are demanding the government meet their demands for:

  1. - a satisfactory solution to the border problem between Oruro and Potosi. Both dispute a piece of territory named Coroma (northern Potosi).
  2. - the construction of a cement factory in Coroma.
  3. - the construction of an international airport.
  4. - the opening of Karachipampa plant.
  5. - the preservation of the Cerro Rico de Potosi.
  6. - the construction of roads.
The strikes are into their 16th day and, according to the Comcipo, there are no plans to give up. In fact, the discussions are shifting towards taking even more radical actions, such as taking over public offices or buildings, marching to La Paz and other undefined by the leaders.

The government has been challenged to negotiations in Potosi. It has responded by demanding the measures be stopped before any negotiation can take place. For its part, the Comcipo relaxed its demands by asking Evo Morales to the table in Sucre. The Comcipo considers Morales the only person whom they can talk because they elected him. In the process there has been several attempts to create a negotiating table by some ministers, but without success.

The problem for the government can become even larger due to the unwillingness of Evo Morales to sit and negotiate. Also, the longer it takes for the two parties to sit and talk, the worst the conditions will get in Potosi and the support for Morales will dwindle even more. Another problem for Morales is that the once pillar of MAS, the mining workers, are involved in this problem supporting the Comcipo. The Cooperativistas or independent miners, who have been critical of the government, are already criticizing the government again. The mine workers of companies operating in Potosi have also hinted their disapproval at Morales' unwillingness to talk directly with the Comcipo representatives. This situation could turn even more problematic for the government because some miners are asking the nationalization of some private mines. For example, the miners in San Cristobal, a mine operated by the Japanese Sumitomo, have asked the government for the nationalization of this company.

So the question remains, will the Morales government be able to deflate this latest conflict with the Potosi region? or will new extreme situations arise?

April 05, 2010

Municipal and Departmental Election Preliminary Results

MABB © ®

These are the preliminary results, based on exit polls and estimates, of yesterday's (April 4) municipal and departmental (+ autonomy) elections in Bolivia. You can find this information in 24 Hours, and much more. It goes without saying, these results are not yet official. Official results will be published by the electoral court on April 24.

First of all, just to remind us, in these elections Bolivians voted to elect departmental and municipal governments, including heads of governments and legislatures. In the case of departments, a governor and a departmental council were elected. In municipalities, a mayor and a municipal council were elected. All in all, around 2511 officials were elected in 9 departments and 337 municipalities as well as indigenous territories.

After the overwhelming win of Evo Morales and his party, MAS, in last december (2009) elections, when they gained the control of the executive and the legislative branches of government, these elections were about the consolidation of power for the governing party.

As you can already perceive from the graphs above, the government is pretty sure to have gained the control of at least 5 departmental governments in La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba, and Sucre. Meanwhile, the opposition is pretty sure to have gained Santa Cruz, Tarija and Beni. As I write this post, Pando is in a tie, thus no one knows if it will join the opposition or the government sides. However, there are two things to observe. First, the MAS wins are pretty comfortable. In La Paz, the MAS incumbent might have won with at least 20 to 25 per centage points of advantage. Similarly, in Cochabamba and Oruro, the advantage for MAS was 30 plus or minus percentage points. In Potosi the advantage borders 45 percentage points. Second, and contrasting the aforementioned, if we observe the wins of the opposition, we conclude these are not so solid. In Tarija and Beni, for example, the opposition incumbent's advantages lie between 5 and 9 percentage points. The only clear win (absolute majority) and thus avoiding a second round of elections is that of Ruben Costas in Santa Cruz with around 15 percentage points.

At the municipal level, the picture is somewhat sobering for MAS and Evo Morales. It is predicted that 7 out of the 10 largest cities in the country went for the opposition. These cities are significant in political terms. Worth mentioning is the win of Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM) in MAS territories such as the cities of La Paz and Oruro, of PAIS in Sucre and AS in Potosi. These results are being handled as the surprises of the elections. No surprise were the wins of the opposition in the cities of Santa Cruz, Tarija and Trinidad.

What does this all mean?

In my opinion it means the confirmation of the status quo with a small, yet significant defeat for MAS at the municipal level. The prospect that MAS might be controlling 6 out of the 9 departmental governments means that, at this level of government, Evo Morales and his national government have indeed significantly weakened (if not destroyed) the media luna. The opposition, which once included Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz, Tarija, and Sucre, has now been reduced to Santa Cruz, Tarija and Pando. Very significant loses for the opposition, especially of Beni. This was the case during Evo Morales' first term and this will be the case for his next term.

If the above municipal level results are any indication for the final results, MAS will suffer a modest defeat in these elections. What is significant, is the defeat of MAS candidates in La Paz and Oruro. These results show that, the perceived unity of MAS at the national level is confronted with reality of local politics and local interests at the local level. It might also be the result of the strategies MAS has pursued to win in municipalities. In La Paz, for example, MAS opted to break a long-standing partnership with MSM.

In addition, at the national level, these results will mean that Evo Morales and his government will have to engage in negotiation with the opposition more often that they would like. The opposition, while weakened, is still present and now stronger due to the autonomic process. The most immediate test of the new balance of power in Bolivia will be the coming law for autonomy and decentralization. There, the government and the opposition will have to negotiate several things. One, the negotiations will touch on the competencies attributed to the departments. Here it will get complicated because not only the national government and the departmental governments have to be involved but also the municipal governments. Two, another complicated topic is the sources for financing the process. Where will the money come from? That is the big question that has to be negotiated. Three, in some cases such as the indigenous and regional autonomies, the national territory will have to be changed. Inevitably, I see some disputes on internal boundaries coming.

Who's got the power now?

The question is, has MAS consolidated its power in Bolivia? My answer is, not as it would have to. On the one side, MAS has control of the national level of government and perhaps some control over the departmental level of government. At the municipal level, at this point, it is hard to tell. The official results are not out yet.

The problem for MAS is the autonomy process. With gained autonomy from the part of departments and municipalities, the national government has less influence in the internal affairs of each political-administrative unit. Unless, of course, the autonomy remains in paper and reality is different.

April 03, 2010

Elections in Bolivia, again!

MABB © ®

For those of you who are interested on following the elections in Bolivia tomorrow live, April 4, I suggest the following links. It turns out there is a lively and busy community in Bolivia with big plans on contributing to the development of an e-democracy. Especially when transparency is the topic. These groups of people are well organized and techno savy and well prepared to bring transparency to tomorrow's elections. Please, give them a visit or follow them on FB and Twitter!

Of course, you can visit the media where you can get the first estimate results. For that visit La Razon, El Diario, El Deber, Los Tiempos, but especially visit tv channels such as ATB, Univision, or La Patria Nueva. The links are on the side bar.

March 07, 2010

Andean Symbolism and Politics

MABB © ®

This is an iteresting article that shows us a bit of the view some radical indigenist groups think about the role Evo Morales has in the indigenist ideology and his use of that ideology for political purposes. Just click on the image to see a larger version.

January 24, 2010

Bolivia's New State: Aparent vs. Integral

MABB © ®

Re-elected Vice president Alvaro Garcia gave a speech as he was being appointed for the second time on January 22, 2010. In this speech, which was more of an academic lecture than a political statement, he laid out his "vision" of the new Bolivian state being created.

He distinguished between two kinds of states: Estado Aparente (Apparent State) and Estado Integral (Integral State). He borrowed the concepts from thinkers such as Rene Zavaleta (Bolivian political scientist, politician and philosopher) and Antonio Gramsci (Italian philosopher and politician).

Garcia said that in the apparent state, which was the one in place until 2005, the Bolivian society and the country's territory, in their entirety, were not integrated into the state. Instead, only some parts of that society were represented, while some parts of the territory were not taken into account. Furthermore, the apparent state did not incorporate culture and neither the different forms of sociopolitical organization present in the country. Garcia then argued that the apparent state was a liberal, republican, democratic and dictatorial state, which centralized its resources, engaged in partimonialism and was subordinated to external powers.

On the other hand, Garcia defined the integral state as one in which there is correspondence among citizens, civil society and the state representatives. In essence, it unites all society groups under a moral, intellectual, and political leadership. This state, rests on several pillars. First, economic sovereignty based on the pivotal role of the state. Second, this state recognizes the equality of rights of the indigenous as well as the mestizo groups. Third, the integral state is present in the entire territory. Fourth, it relies on a community based and plural economy where small, medium and large production takes place, and the state is the engine.

As you can see, Garcia's speech reveals many of his Marxist tendencies. That makes me think about what Felix Patzi has been saying about the MAS government. Patzi, an indigenous intellectual, has been arguing that the traditional left (including communists, socialist, marxists, Leninist, etc.) has hijacked the MAS and has surrounded Evo Morales in the government. Patzi argued that the new Bolivia is nothing that the indigenous movements wanted when they started the process to take over power. The indigenous movements seek an indigenous version of a state. Perhaps, one based on the ancient cultures of the Incas or Aymaras. By any means, they sought to implement socialism, Marxism, communism or any other ism that came from what they call the western world.

So, is Patzi right? Has Evo Morales lost his compass? Is he being used by the traditional left?

January 23, 2010

The New Government

MABB © ®

This is the new cabinet that will be working with Morales.
Source: Erbol and Cambio

Relaciones Exteriores: David Choquehuanca Céspedes
Ministerio de la Presidencia: Oscar Coca Antezana
Ministerio de Gobierno: Sacha Llorenti Sóliz
Ministerio de Defensa: Rubén Saavedra Soto
Ministerio de Defensa Legal del Estado: Elizabeth Arismendi Chumacero
Planificación del Desarrollo: Elva Caro Hinojosa
Economía y Finanzas Públicas: Luís Arce Catacora
Hidrocarburos y Energía: Luís Fernando Vincenti Vargas
Desarrollo Productivo y Economía Plural: Antonia Rodríguez Medrano
Obras Públicas, Servicios y Vivienda: Walter Delgadillo Terceros
Minería y Metalurgia: Milton Gómez Mamani
Ministry of Justicia: Nilda Copa Condori
Trabajo, Empleo y Previsión Social: Carmen Trujillo Cárdenas
Ministerio de Salud y Deportes: Sonia Polo Andrade
Medio Ambiente y Aguas: María Udaeta Velásquez
Ministerio de Educación: Roberto Aguilar Gómez
Desarrollo Rural y Tierras: Nemesia Chacollo Tola
Ministerio de Autonomías: Carlos Romero Bonifaz
Ministerio de Transparencia Institucional y Lucha Contra la Corrupción: Nardy Suxo Iturri
Ministerio de Culturas: Zulma Yugar Párraga.

They were appointed through Presidential Decree (Decreto Presidencial) Nr. 0407/10.

January 22, 2010

Images of Morales' Inauguration Ceremony

MABB © ®

Here are some images from ABI of Morales' Possession as the spiritual leader of the country.

Click on the images to see them in greater detail.