December 13, 2011

Curious Drug Bust Finds Cocaine Paste Labled With the Nazi Symbol, a Swastika

MABB © ®
A very curious drug bust in Santa Cruz, Bolivia found around 250 kilograms of cocaine paste in the form of bricks. The curious think was that each brick displayed, on one of the flat sides, a swastika. Here is the press article from El Deber.

The bust leaves more questions than answers. Above all, why do all the bricks carry a Nazi symbol?


December 08, 2011

The Dangers of Communitarian Justice

MABB © ®

There is a real danger about relying on communitarian justice when the state is not able to establish its presence in rural areas. That is the problem that has been highlighted by Bolivia's attempts at relying on communitarian justice in order to complement the weak judicial apparatus in the country.

The Bolivian constitution raises communitarian justice to the same rank as ordinary justice. On the back of ethnic, autonomic and indigenous peoples discourse, now rural dwellers around the country (there where the state is not really present) can claim the use of communitarian justice as an equal alternative to ordinary justice.

This, on one side, stems from the insecurity these dwellers feel because of the lack of presence of police forces. In addition, more often than not, people have to travel long in order to come to the nearest judge.

November 18, 2011

MABB © ®

I am posting this time some links I found intersting.

This first link is an article strongly criticizing the Morales governmet written by Roberto Laserna (a Bolivian academic).

The second link leads to a picture of the swearing ceremony for the elected judges, that is those who won the judicial elections in Bolivia. With this, the electoral act is confirmed. It did not really matter that the spoiled vote won, did it?

The third link to a youtube video where former Government Minister, Quintana, accuses the DEA of being involved in drug trafficking and protecting the TIPNIS region for this purpose.

November 12, 2011

The Results of the Judicial Elections in Bolivia

MABB © ®

The results of the vote to fill judge posts in the four judicial sub-branches in Bolivia have been published by the Plurinacional Electoral Organ (the electoral court). Although, I have to say, since Evo is in government, the website does not work as well as it should. However, I was still able to get the final and official results.

First, I have to clarify that when I wanted to access the official results I had problems accessing the right results. For example, as I selected Santa Cruz or Pando, I got the Chuquisaca or Beni results. Only after 20 or 30 times trying to access the data by clicking on the same selection from the drop down menue I was able to access these results. Just to clarify further, I never had such a problem when I tried to access this kind of data before. I think the quality of data access has gone down.

Regardless of my petty problems by accessing the data, I was finally able to access it and from that data I created the following graph.

October 31, 2011

TIPNIS Environmental Report

MABB © ®

I found an environment report on the TIPNIS region in PDF format for those who are interested and can read Spanish. I am sorry I cannot translate it, I wish I had the time. 

It provides information on which indigenous peoples live around the area and which other groups of settlements are there. Especially it talks about the colonizers.

Of course, it talks about the importance of the region for the ecological well being of the areas in and around the park.

October 30, 2011

The Problem Around the TIPNIS Seems to Take a Turn Downwards

MABB © ®

The TIPNIS "problem", I have been writing about in the last weeks, seems to develop more and more. In my last post I wrote about a "headache" developing for the government due to the actions some congressmen from MAS were about to take. Now, it seems that the weakening of the MAS majority in Congress is not the only worry. The government is looking at potential disruptions in some important roads as well as more marches or demonstrations (mobilizations, as people like to call them).

First of all, it is necessary to say that as a result of the indigenous march that arrived in La Paz on October 19, demanding the government stop its plans to build a road through the TIPNIS, the below law was passed. This law is called the Law to Protect the TIPNIS. The law basically repeats what can be read in the 2009 Constitution, that is the idigenous peoples have claims and rights over these protected areas and those areas designated as "originary" (meaning indigenous territories).

The discussion however has been over a word included in the law to protect it against destruction, dissappearence or damage. The word in Spanish is "intangible", which can translated into English as intangible or impalpable. However, I am not sure the meaning is the same. In Spanish, the dictionary says that "intangible" is that something SHOUL NOT or CANNOT be touched. In English the meaning of intangible is incapable of being perceived and of impalpable is that it cannot be touched or perceived. In any case, not a clear cut translation. That is what I think. But, what is meant in the law is that the territory cannot be touched and must be preserved as it is.

October 20, 2011

The Biginning of a Political Headache?

MABB © ®
The TIPNIS conflict has become a real headache for the Morales government. In fact, it has the potential to turn into a chronic desease, if the government and its party, the MAS, does not take care of its alliances.

The Senator for MAS, Pedro Nuni, has told Erbol that he will leave the MAS congressional faction to start another indigenous faction within Congress. He said he was tired to "raise his hands like a stupid". He complained that MAS and Evo only had the interests of the highland indigenous groups in mind and that the lowland indigenous groups were not important for Evo.

Nuni is a representative of the lowland indigenous groups and as such is bounded in his actions to the scrutiny of his constituency. He was asked by the representative organization to serve as a deputy. 

This ought to be a warning signal for a government who is dependent on the support of the indigenous population. The break up of some indigenous groups might rest on the legitimacy that up to now the government has claimed for itself. It, for sure, will rest on the support in Congress that the government might need in order to pass some legislation.

In my opinion, this break up is unavoidable. As the different groups in Congress face the government's agenda and weight this agenda against the interests of their own constituencies, some dissagreement is bound to show up. Instead, the government should be concentrating more on compromise and communication than on setting up a system of party discipline.

TIPNIS Arrives in La Paz

MABB © ®

Source of the photo.

The political activity is starting to make headlines again in Bolivia. The Morales government has been entangled in a confrontation with a group of indigenous people over the construction of a road that would cut right through their territory. What makes the problem even more complicated is that the territory is a natural reserve called, by its accronym, simply TIPNIS (in English is roughly translated to Isiboro Serure Indigenous Territory National Park). The territory lies between two rivers with the names Isiboro and Secure. Here is the wikipedia article in English and here, what seems to be the website of a group of people in opposition to the government in Spanish, but it has some useful information on the park itself.

October 17, 2011

The Judicial Elections in Bolivia

MABB © ®
Yesterday, Sunday, October 16, 2011, Bolivia went yet again to the ballot box. This time they elected judges for the highest courts. It was an experimental election, because it was the first time in the region (pls correct me if I am wrong) that judges were elected by popular vote. They usually are appointed by, either the executive or the legislative branches.

Today, Monday, one day later, the headlines are catching the interest of many. In almost every newspaper the headline reads: The Spoiled Vote Marks the First Defeat of Morales.

Indeed, the exit polls are predicting a significant defeat for the Morales government. El Diario, reports (sorry this is not a permalink) the defeat is 60% to 38%, with the former representing the spoiled and blank votes and the latter being the valid votes. This marks a difference of 22%. Pagina 7, however makes a more differentiated report and highlights also exit poll results as: Spoiled 45,7%, blank 16,7%, and valid 37,6%.

This is important because, if we consider Evo Morales has won elections in 2005 with a 54%, in 2009 with 64%, in a 2008 referendum with 67% and another referendum to approve the new Constitution with 62%, the defeat yesterday marks a significant event. The defeat might mean that the support for his government is dwindling.

But, why would that be? There are many people who attribute this result to two things. The first thing points us to the most recent conflict between indigenous groups against the construction of a highway though what they consider a protected by law and their territory. This conflict is know as the TIPNIS conflict. The most recent and most relevant event was a September 25, 2011, police repression against the march of these indigenous groups to La Paz to protest against the plans of the government. There were even some casualties. The second problem conducing to this result is the disbelief that elected judges are a better form of justice. The argument is, while they might have legitimacy because they are elected directly, the politization of the justice is a serious concern. In particular, it is widely believed now that Morales is trying to consolidate its control of the state and power by positioning people close to his party into high judicial posts. An additional, more subtil, motive is the highly questionable manner in which the government finances this elections. For example, Erbol reported that several people who work on ministries and other governmental agencies and companies are obligated to give a "voluntary" contribution for those puroposes. That is, in one ministry it is said people are ordered to give 500 bolivianos (bs). In other ministry, there is a scale where people contribute with 100 bs., 350 bs., to 600 bs., and the higher officials with 10% of their salary, which can be around 1300 bs. Read here. In addition, they are obligated to attend marches in support of the government. Some people are even transported accross departments. Read here and here. So much for voluntary support!

As for the elections, it was reported that there were various irregularities but nothing serious. Some problems were that some candidates were still campaigning, even though they were prohibited from doing so. There were even reports that some brochures were inserted in the bibles in some churches.

In the lighter side of the event, there was a campaign (to which I pointed in a previous post) to show how to spoil the vore. People were very creative. Here are some links: La Razon,

October 07, 2011

The Judicial Elections in Bolivia and the Spoil Vote Campaign

MABB © ®
Here is a post, for a change, after a long time (talking about understatements, but that is another story).

As you know, in Bolivia there will be a new round of elections on October 16. This time voters will elect judges for four judicial entities. These entities were created as well as adopted in the newest version of the Bolivian Constitution of 2009. The entities are The Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the Magistrate Council (a control institution) and the Agro-Environment Court. If you visit the newly refurbished website of the electoral organism, renamed Organo Electoral Plurinacional or Plurinational Electoral Organ, you can get all this information and more.Of course, you can also like the Facebook page of the elections. That way you can get updated more often.

The reason for my post is to call attention to a not so often seen development in Bolivian elections. Some people in the oposition (and please do not qutomatically equate oposition with Santa Cruz or the media luna), by this I mean people who are opposed to these elections, have engaged in the promotion of the spoiled vote as a form of a protest vote. A good example is this document which spells out how exactly one is to spoil the vote in order to protest against this kind of elections.


Updates: As I find info I post it here.

Here is a critical text.

January 13, 2011

On the Gasolinazo!

MABB © ®

Pukara is a magazine that is published once a month (in paper) and also electronically. This time they've published a special issue on the Gasolinazo, that I think is worth a read.

Here is the link.