January 24, 2014

Morales "Renews" his Cabinet

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Every January 22nd, President Morales and his government celebrate the creation of their Plurinational State. This year was not different. The Bolivian state celebrated its fourth year of its foundation with elaborate and very colorful indigenous ceremonies, solemn speeches reassuring the right path this new state is taking and with the active participation indeed of the social movements. These celebrations take place mainly around the Murillo square, where the legislative and executive have their buildings.

January is also the time for the President to give his state of the nation address (see above below), that is The President speaks about what has been achieved and what needs to be still achieved. This year, Morales spoke four hours to the entire legislative body. In his speech he made sure to recapitulate all projects his government has been able to materialize. In particular he spoke of the achievements his program Bolivia Cambia, Evo Cumple made over these last years. He also highlighted the advances his transfers programs had achieved. Lastly, he particularly mentioned the launching of Bolivia's own Chinese made and monitored communications satellite Tupak Katari. However, particularly interesting was to hear what his government had planned for the next years. For example, Morales announced the entrance of Bolivia in the atomic era. He said Bolivia will work on the development of an atomic plant to produce energy. He did put emphasis on the peaceful intentions. Another announcement that made headlines was the government's plans to give every high school graduate $1000 as an incentive.

January 22, 2014

Human Rights in Bolivia: HRW Report on Bolivia's Record 2014

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Despite of the sympathetic school of thought on Bolivia, which usually highlights the social advances the country has experienced over the last six years (during the Morales government), there is an insistent (and very often adamant) observation critics make regarding President Morales' record in the Human Rights arena. Most prominently, the opposition has long complained about political persecution on the opposition's leadership and anyone who dares to contradict the government. However, there have been also other complains, such as the ones journalists and media outlets have expressed as to their loss of freedom of expression, journalism liberties and rough treatment from the part of the government. In similar fashion, yet to a lesser degree, some indigenous groups have criticized the manner in which the government has acted against some of these groups which did not agree with the government.

January 15, 2014

The Evo Morales Government and the ONGs, Foundations, Not For Profit and Religious Orgs.

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If you followed events in Bolivia recently, you cannot have missed the expulsion of a Danish ngo which had been working in Bolivia for the past 30 years. In a process already seen before, the Morales government expelled IBIS Bolivia from the country. It alleged the organization "conspired and interfered with the process of change and divided the social organizations" (which form the bases for the MAS). What is more, Evo Morales, did not even accept the public and formal apologies from Vagn Berthelsen (Secretary General of IBIS Denmark, the main organization), who travel to Bolivia recently and went ahead to officially expel the ngo from Bolivia. Morales himself said that his Government Minister (Quintana) explained Berthelsen how "his" money was being spent and that he was surprised. For those of you who remember, the Bolivian government already expelled one other ngo from Bolivia for identical reasons. In May 2013, "Morales accused USAID, which has been in Bolivia since 1964, of political interference with peasant unions and other social organizations and conspiring against his government."

Is this a trend setting in the relationship between the Morales government and the ngos working in the country? Should these worry about these seemingly isolated cases?

January 10, 2014

Elections 2014: The Opposition Begins to Show Signs of Life

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While the date for the upcoming Bolivian general elections in 2014 has not been set yet, the Morales government has already been in campaign for a while and the opposition is just beginning to show signs of life.

On the one side, the Morales government has already started its political campaign in 2013, right after having been given the green light by the constitutional court to run for a third term. The court found a law allowing Morales to run for a third time as constitutional and, that way, allowed a legally questionable exception in favor of the president. The MAS promptly designated Morales as presidential candidate and Garcia as vicepresidential candidate. The campaign is already running full steam ahead.

The opposition, on the other hand, is just beginning to organize itself. While it is populated by many hopeful leaders, they all know very well that if the opposition does not unite, it will have very little chance to remove Morales from power.

So far, there are three clear groups which have demonstrated interest in taking part in the electoral process. The majority of these groups are not political parties, but they are mere alliances of even more different smaller regional and municipal groups with political aspirations, many of which are what is left of the so called traditional political parties that were active before Morales arrived to the presidency.

January 09, 2014

For Those Who Ask What Coca Leafs Are Good For

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Those skeptics who dare to ask what coca leaves are good for, have to pay attention to this post. It is not just that these leaves have an important place in the Andean culture as a ritual aide to establish spiritual contact with mother earth. Neither are they only used by mine workers (and others) as an aid to diminish fatigue and hunger or are drank by the average people as a tea infusion or even drank by tourists to deal with altitude sickness in La Paz. The (as denoted in Bolivia) "millennial leaves" are also used to read the future, even to predict the political developments coming up in 2014. These predictions or divinations are performed by traditional healers/priests/shamans called Kallawayas.

As you well know, this year, 2014, will be a crucial year for Evo, because by the end of the year his presidential term will end and therefore there will be elections. This is very important for him, because it will be his third term in office and, as we also know, he wants to stay in office. So the results of this elections will determine whether Morales will stay in power or if there is a change in direction. The options have never been clearer and as a result the country is clearly divided between two camps: those who support the so called process of change (i.e. the Morales government) and those who just want to see Morales leave office.