November 28, 2013

Deepening the Process of Change in Bolivia

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The Morales government has been very busy deepening its so called Process of Change. Once they approved the 2009 constitution, the government and its legislative branch began the process of passing the necessary laws to implement such process. In a prior post I spoke about the main laws the government had wanted to pass to start the process. Now I am compiling the other necessary, but less important, laws to complete the process.

On January 2012, the government organized the Plurinational Encounter for the Deepening of the Process of Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This event, which was the second phase with the first taking place on December 12 to 15, 2011 in Cochabamba, gathered upwards of 6000 people representing somewhere in the order of 760 civil society organizations, of all types, primarily the government's bases of supporters. The conclusions resulted in the presentation of around 600 proposals of how the process should continue, i.e. the demands of the movements, and about 70 proposals for laws.

November 05, 2013

Allowance for People Who Travel to Bolivia

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Bolivian law allows people who travel to Bolivia to bring with them, without having to pay any taxes, used articles for personal use. In the case of new articles, each person has an allowance of US$ 1000 free of taxes. Anything above that sum is subjected to tax.

The used Items are:

Electronic articles such as photo cameras, laptops, video and audio recorders, cellular phones, sport articles, musical instrument, and personal assistance articles for children and handicaped people.

Here you have the official flyer in Spanish, put together by the National Border Agency (Aduana Nacional).





October 16, 2013

Commercial Exchange Bolivia-EU

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The economic development of Bolivia has acquired increased importance, especially in light of next year's elections. How the Bolivian economy performs is one of the significant factors the Morales government will be evaluated on for the coming elections. Now, Bolivian international trade has been depicted as dynamic at the time of observing the overall results because the country has even been able to show a trade surplus in the last years. However, the questions remains, how does the trade activity of Bolivia looks like at a more detailed level? Given that Bolivia does not have good relations with the USA, which used to be its principal trade partner, and that the price of hydrocarbon products are not as favorable as they used to be, that put Brazil and Argentina in first and second place as partners, who comes into question?

October 05, 2013

The Redistribution of Power and Influence: The Bolivian Adjustment Efforts of its Legislative Seats

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The logical result of the Bolivian Census 2012 fiasco was a dispute over the distribution of congressional seats, as I briefly mentioned in my prior post. Well, now it is so far.

Just to clarify, I say fiasco because the results, a preliminary version presented by Morales in January 2013 and the final version in July 2013, proved to be problematic for the government and the census itself. Morales first presented the preliminary results, given to him by the statistical institute, to the public highlighting how the country had been gaining population. By the time he presented the final and official results, the same had changed somewhat in the populations of some departments. That was the reason why in the first results Santa Cruz had been highlighted as the most populous city in Bolivia, displacing La Paz to second place for the first time in history. However, in the second results, La Paz regained its place, but Santa Cruz remained in close second.

September 17, 2013

A "Commitment with the Change"

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How committed should a person be with a given government when asked to take part in it?

It seems logical for a president to ask for commitment when he or she is asking some person to work for the government. I imagine, every president asks the chosen person whether he or she wants to join the government in a given position and has the necessary commitment. This is especially true when people join the cabinet. At the cabinet level, people are asked to join the president's team, and therefore they have to be somewhat in-line with what the president is or wants to do. Unless, of course, the president (if he is clever) specifically asks for constructive criticism. Nonetheless, a certain level of commitment should be there. If not before he or she takes up the post, at least after the post is taken. As said before, the person is joining the president's team and therefore he or she has to do what the president "orders" to do. There is not much choice.

But, where does that commitment end or should end?

August 01, 2013

The 2012 Bolivian Census

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The 2012 Bolivian census` official and final results were presented on July 31, 2013. Though, an endeavour that was supposed to be carried out, in accordance to the law, every 10 years (the last census was in 2001), the census was nevertheless carried out, albeit with delay. In charge of the process was the National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas, INE). The final report can be downloaded in this link.

With delay, as well, were the final results presented. The INE had expressed beginning 2013 its desire to present the final results as soon as possible. However, as soon as possible can hardly be considered seven months into the new year. But, that is just my opinion.

July 25, 2013

Constitutionalism and the Analysis of the Bolivian Constitution

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To those who are interested on the study of the latest Bolivian Constitution, I want to recommend a newly published website from the Center for Constitutional Studies (Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, CEC) at the Catholic University in La Paz. The web address of the site is: www.econstitucional.com.

The site is aimed at researchers and academics, most of all, who want to take an annotated, commented and analyzed view of the 2009 Bolivian Constitution. All that, with an interdisciplinary (i.e. not just juridical) approach.

July 10, 2013

Repercussions Are Still Being Felt on the Morales "Incident"

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"It is very clear that this is an event that goes beyond the explanations that have been given here," said the Secretary General. "With all due respect to my European Observer friends, with all the affection that we have for them, there is a serious matter here that has not been clarified."
The incident, said the leader of the hemispheric institution, "leaves a wound.” "And the best way to heal that wound, to mend that wound, is to know what really happened, what really took place," continued the Secretary General. "Where did this news come from that Mr. Snowden was on the plane? Why was it believed?" The best way to clear everything up, he added, "is through transparency."

The quote above is from OAS' Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, and expresses two diplomatic approaches to the Morales incident. On the one side, the Latin Americans want a mea culpa from the Europeans as well as a satisfactory explanation. On the other side, the Europeans want to get over it and go on with business as usual.

In my previous post, I concluded that nothing was going to happen, just because the Latin Americans were much more dependent from the Europeans than the other way around. That is simply because the EU is one of the most important cooperation partners of the region. This cooperation focuses mainly on the stability of the regimes, various forms of democratic deepening and, above all, the fight against poverty. Moreover, the EU is one partner that engages in direct investment in the Latin America region. In this post, I want to balance a bit more that conclusion. I still think nothing serious will happen, e.g. the breaking of diplomatic relations between Bolivia and the four European nations or the European nations really issuing a formal apology and explaining what exactly happened. However, based on the fact that the relationship has indeed suffered damage, there might be some aspects in that relationship on which Latin America might have some leverage.

July 08, 2013

The Morales "Incident" and its Implications for Bolivia's Foreign Policy and Relations

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A good week has passed from that Tuesday when the Bolivian Presidential plane was forced to land in Vienna because France, Spain, Portugal and Italy did not allow it to enter their air space because they had been informed whistle blower Edward Snowden was on board. That evening and the Wednesday after, Morales received overwhelming support, mainly from his Latin American allies, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay and more moderate support from the rest of the Latin American nations. On the Thursday after his return, the UNASUR held an emergency meeting. In this meetings were present all the close allies plus the other nations but with lower ranked diplomats. The meeting was surrounded by a climate of indignation and there were many statements made, by the presidents attending, that strongly judged the behavior of the European nations involved as well as of the US.

There is no question that what happened to Morales was a serious violation to international protocol, at least viewed from the Latin American side. To put things in perspective, this would have never (and will never) have happened to Obama, Hollande, Rajoy or any other west European president. Just to have that clear!

July 05, 2013

The Reasons Why Morales Was Stranded in Vienna

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In the mean time, Morales is already back in Bolivia (arrived Wednesday night) and even the Cochabamba Summit of the UNASUR (Thursday) already took place. While Morales was received as a hero coming back from war, although many of the people who went to wait for him at the El Alto airport were forced to go by the government apparatus, the UNASUR published the Cochabamba Resolution, which basically repudiates what happened to Morales and demands an official apology from the European countries involved.

However, few days later, the facts are starting to surface and some clarity is starting to set in the whole incident. As to what happened, according to Morales' own account during the summit (see Telesur), the plane had a set itinerary even before Morales spoke at the meeting of natural gas-exporting countries in Moscow. Shortly thereafter, Morales was told that Portugal (which was going to be the first stop) had cancelled the permission to land due to "technical issues". Morales instructed his pilot to find another route. This alternative route involved a stop in Spanish soil. According to Morales, as they were approaching French air space, the French government refused to allow the Bolivian presidential plane to enter their air space. Without alternative route, because as you know if you are flying to Spain you have to pass through France, unless you want to circumvent it flying through North Africa, Morales and his pilots decided to look for a place to land because they needed to refuel. They asked Italy, which refused and they lied to Vienna to allow them to land, alleging a technical difficulty. So Morales landed in Vienna and waited 13 or 14 hours to continue his trip home.

July 04, 2013

Morales' Diplomatic Incident in Europe (follow up)

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Update1:

Here is a link to Spanish Television (TVE) where the Spanish Foreign Minister speaks about the Morales incident. He confirms that "they" told him Snowden was in fact on board of the plane. The implications were unacceptable: a) process the asylum application and b) after rejecting the application, having to go through the process of extradition to the US...........

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Analyzing what happened to the Bolivian presidential jet leads us to one conclusion: The countries who denied entrance into their air space and subsequent landing to the Bolivian plane were trying to avoid having to consider asylum for Edward Snowden. For example, had the plane landed in Spanish territory, the government would have seen itself obliged by law to formally consider asylum for Snowden, because the excuse is that the person who solicits asylum has to be in Spanish soil.

This is precisely what happened. A report of the Spanish newspaper ABC.es, which was published on July 2, 2013 at 22:36 (while Morales was arriving in Vienna), said that the Spanish government was getting ready to prevent Snowden set foot in Spanish soil. Here is the text of the article and the link:

July 03, 2013

Morale's Trip to Moscow Ending in a Diplomatic Cataclysm?

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Update 2:

What the European governments are saying:

The French are trying to explain themselves by saying that they were not sure who was in the airplane. Hollande, specifically, said there were "conflicting information" and that "as soon as he knew the Bolivian President was on bord, he stopped the blockade". Now, if that is a lame excuse, it has to be judged by the world. (see also Le Monde's report)

The Spanish government (Rajoy) is assuring that all was a confusion, and that the Spanish government had never blocked the President's airplane to enter Spanish air space. In any case, they are pleading ignorance as to what really happened. Rajoy qualified the confusion as "artificial" because Snowden was not in the plane.

The Germans are calling the whole incident a "diplomatisches Eklat" (diplomatic scandal). They see the incident as a result of the Snowden affair.

Update 1:

In the mean time, one can get the audio from the jet's landing in #VIE.

The OAS has criticized the faux pas.

The "stinking" French have expressed their regret for having closed their air space for Morales, because, "as you know", Le Grand Nation is so appreciative of their friendship with the "Bolivie". (What a ....!)

And now, public officials and bureaucrats are being forced to go to wait for the arrival of Morales. (Hmm.....!)

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Evo #Morales' participation in a Summit of natural gas-exporting countries in Moscow, Russia, would have been routine, had his presidential plane (#FAB-001) not been forced to land in #Vienna, #Austria due to the refusal of #Spain, #France, #Portugal and #Italy to allow it to fly through their air space.

May 17, 2013

Bolivian Exports 2012

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Many are asking how is Bolivia's economy responding to the different political events developing in the country. Well, there are plenty of analyses regularly coming out, not only from governmental agencies such as the Central Bank, the Statistical Institute and the government itself, but also from other non-governmental institutions such as the (literally translated) Bolivian Institute for Outer Commerce (Instituto Boliviano de Comercio ExteriorIBCE) - in English it might be most properly translated as the Bolivian Institute of Trade.

The IBCE recently released some numbers which are, for Bolivia, pretty current. Normally, the numbers have a lag of around 2 years.

Be that as it may, according to these numbers, it looks as though the country's source of financial resources is still up for interpretation. If you look at the evolution over time of Bolivian exports (a graph that I don't include here because it didn't seem important for this post), you'll notice a steep increase in the last five or six years. Having said that, if you take a critical look at the numbers you'll find the following.

May 15, 2013

The Census 2012

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On November 21, 2012, Bolivia carried out its 10-year population census after 11 years. The reports about how did the proces went are mainly positive, but, as already usual in Bolivia, with a few caveats. I analyze here the preliminary results, some problems about the census process and its significance for Bolivia.

April 29, 2013

Paz Zamora Interview in Semanario Uno

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Here is an interview with former president Jaime Paz Zamora. He criticises the tendency of some presidents to want to stay in power for longer than it is allowed.

Jaime Paz Zamora: “Evo Morales es una turbulencia pasajera”

by Semanario Uno on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 6:07pm ·


“Gracias a Dios no se me pegó el virus de la presidencialitis, que en el país es un virus muy frecuente y parece no tener remedio. Paz Estenssoro tuvo presidencialitis, porque no quería irse con la imagen del 52. Banzer tenía presidencialitis, porque no quería irse con la imagen de su anterior gobierno. Goni tenía presidencialitis, porque creía ser un superdotado que tenía que terminar lo que él consideraba su obra. Y ahora está Evo con un virus que no sé si es del Chapare o de dónde, pero también es presidencialitis.”

“Yo les decía a los gringos, que me invitaron a dar una charla en una universidad, que la democracia no era fácil, que más bien nosotros estábamos yendo muy rápido. La democracia norteamericana ha demorado siglos, con muchas luchas contra el racismo, para lograr llevar a un Obama a la Presidencia… la democracia boliviana demoró 25 años en poner a un Evo Morales en la Presidencia; o sea, vamos mejor que los gringos desde el punto de vista de perspectiva de construir una democracia.”

“Yo creo que el gobierno de Evo Morales tiene una misión, para eso fue elegido. Era sencillamente una misión. Bolivia tenía que tener en algún momento un Evo Morales o podía haber sido otro igual que él, solo que a Evo Morales se le pusieron los astros en fila: estuvo en el lugar preciso, en el momento preciso, con los recursos precisos. Era lo que Bolivia necesitaba como democracia, una especie de democratización más profunda en su sociedad.”

“Es preocupante que el Presidente sea también la cabeza de ese extraño partido que es el MAS. Porque es un extraño partido político, no de los movimientos sociales, sino de las directivas de los movimientos sociales… comencemos a decir la verdad, los movimientos sociales no tienen nada que ver con el Ejecutivo, al Ejecutivo se llega porque se es de confianza del Presidente. Suena extraño también cuando hablan de pueblos indígenas, porque yo más bien veo que es un gobierno de disfrazados…”


Bolivia's Demand Against Chile Presented at the IC

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Here is the link to the document presented by the Bolivian government at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Bolivia's claim to access to sea has been one of the main issues dominating the country's diplomatic relations with Chile.

The document

The link was placed by the newspaper Pagina Siete on the web and I hope they keep the document there.

March 06, 2013

After Chavez's Death, What Happens to Bolivia or Evo?

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And what now?

That is the question many people are asking all over Latin America now that the peculiar Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has passed away.

That is a valid question, because, aside from becoming the principal ideological reference and the leadership force of the so called Socialism of the XXI century, which has been very influential especially in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, as well as in lesser degree in countries such as Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brasil, Chavez had at his disposal large sums of financial resources to back up this ideology around the world and specially in the Latin American region.

The current Bolivian government and its President, Evo Morales, have benefited with a special friendship Chavez, and so, Bolivia too is asking herself the same question: and what now?

February 07, 2013

The Law on Autonomy: Unconstitutional Law?

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Some legal incompatibilities (some might call them carelessness) are coming back to hunt the new Bolivian political system, the government and the legislative branch. It has to do with four articles in the Law of Autonomies and Decentralization that were, in the last two days, declared unconstitutional by the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (i.e. Constitutional Court). Articles 144, 145, 146 and 147 allow for the removal of Mayors and Governors in case these public officials have been accused by the Public Attorney of some crime. Based on accusations and resting on the legality of the Autonomy Law, elected Governors Ernesto Suarez from Beni and Mario Cossio of Tarija, were removed from office. In addition, since the passing of the law in 2011, eleven Mayors and the two mentioned Governors were removed. Curiously enough, the vast majority are from the opposition.

The sentence of the Constitutional Tribunal opens the doors for uncertainty in the administration of such territorial units and their political power balance. While the complain by the opposition had been the use of this legal instrument by government forces to favor the government's party, MAS, the possibility of those removed to be able to come back to office has deep consequences for the government, its party and its agenda.