October 01, 2018

The Verdict on the Causa Bolivia vs. Chile at the Hague


The decision on the lawsuit Bolivia started against Chile at the Hague, in order to oblige the latter to conduct negotiations on a sovereign sea access, has been issued. At three pm, the judges made public their statement whereby they rejected all of Bolivia's arguments. In consequence, there is no obligation for Chile to negotiate as Bolivia has argued.

The statement, which can be found here, outlines all of the proceedings, from start to end. In it, the court lists all of Bolivia's arguments as well as what Bolivia expected from the court, that is:

  1. Chile has the obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean;
  2. Chile has breached the said obligation; and
  3. Chile must perform the said obligation in good faith, promptly, formally, within a reasonable time and effectively, to grant Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
The statement protocols Chile's expectations as well:
  1. The Republic of Chile respectfully requests the Court to dismiss all of theclaims of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
An earlier post of mine explains a bit more what was this dispute about. You will find this post here.

This is a major blow for the Morales government, one which he took in person, because he was present during the reading of the verdict.

It is a major blow because Morales in person raised the expectations on a positive outcome. He more or less promised Bolivians the verdict would be positive and Bolivia would get its sea access.

Instead the judges dismiss the arguments and take the Chilean side. More on this later....

May 17, 2018

Online Tool to Check on Your Electricity Bill


The Bolivian agency in charge of controlling and administering the electricity sector AE has entered the e-government era. It published this website providing various services so users are able to do many things related to their electricity supply. 

To start of, they can find out where to go to complain or make use of services the company offers, such as making payments, establishing services, etc. Customers can follow up their complaints, and see in advance a schedule of oncoming reparations, outages, and so on. Finally, they can make use of a tool to calculate their monthly charges, as a way of controlling.

April 11, 2018

Oil Company Total's Projects in Bolivia


This post was taken from the Total website here. It shortly mentions the various business interests Total has in Bolivia. I thank Total for letting me place this here and point to the original through the link above.

Source: https://www.total.com/en/media/news/press-releases/total-lance-le-developpement-dincahuasi-en-bolivie

Paris, September 25, 2013 -

Total announces today the final investment decision for a first development phase of the Incahuasi gas and condensate field in Bolivia, following the successful drilling results of the ICS-2 exploration well.

Located on the Ipati Block 250 kilometers South West of Santa Cruz in the Andean foothills, the development, operated by Total, will involve 3 wells (one on the Aquio block and two on the Ipati block), a gas treatment plant with a capacity of 6.5 Mm3/d and associated export pipelines. First Gas, is expected in 2016, of which a large portion will be exported.

The ICS-2 well, drilled to a depth of 5,636 m, is the second successful exploration well on the Ipati Block. The results of two recent tests on this well proved a hydrocarbon column of around 1,100 meters in the Devonian Huamampampa fractured sandstones reservoir.

“The very positive results of the last well drilled on the Incahuasi field enabled us to launch a first development phase to help meet growing gas demand in the region,” said Ladislas Paszkiewicz, Total E&P Senior Vice President for the Americas. “We shall actively continue our exploration efforts in Bolivia to enable additional developments”.

Total plans several more exploration and appraisal wells on the Ipati and Aquio blocks to prove the significant additional potential of the Incahuasi field. Total also plans to commence exploration activities on the neighboring Azero block following the recent signature of an agreement with national energy company YPFB and Gazprom.

Total Exploration and Production in Bolivia

Present in Bolivia since 1996, TEPBo operates the Aquio and Ipati blocks with a 60% participating interest, in association with Tecpetrol de Bolivia (20%) and Gazprom (20%, pending final administrative approvals).

TEPBo also owns a 15% participating interest in the San Alberto and San Antonio blocks which supply natural gas mainly to Brazil, as well as a 41% participating interest in the Ita├║ field, put on stream in 2011 to supply gas to Argentina.

Company information:

Total has been operating in Bolivia since 1995 in two main areas: Exploration and production and marketing and services (lubricants and special fluids). For more info visit Total's Bolivia website.

Democracy in the World: Freedom House on Bolivia and the World


Freedom House's Democracy in the World interactive map 2018 (freedomhouse.org)

Here is a post I do almost every year. I report/monitor the yearly publication of Freedom House's Democracy in the World and cut and paste its findings. This year's report is particularly interesting because its title is Democracy in Crisis and its key findings are:

  • Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world.
  • Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
  • The United States retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy amid an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties.
  • Over the period since the 12-year global slide began in 2006, 113 countries have seen a net decline, and only 62 have experienced a net improvement.
The report documents the sustained decline in democractic freedoms around the world. Now Bolivia has been classified as a partly free democracy since years and its position has not changed this year. While the report is not yet available, the direction in which the country is headed in FH's score is a matter of concern. The major reason this year for this downtrend is because:
Bolivia received a downward trend arrow due to a constitutional court ruling that abolished term limits and paved the way for President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019.
 Happy readings!

March 23, 2018

Bolivia's Dispute with Chile at the Hague


The Bolivia-Chile relations have been dominated by one issue, the loss of sea access for Bolivia as a result of the pacific war of 1879 between the two countries. Ever since, Bolivia has been claiming injustice to the world for, what the country calls, an illegal usurpation of territory. To this day, Bolivia and Chile do not have diplomatic relations and do not abandon controversy and confrontation instead of talking to one another.

The latest chapter in this long-standing dispute is evolving this week, from the 19th to the 23rd, in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands. On Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th, Bolivia had the opportunity to present its last oral arguments in the process initiated by this country against Chile back in 2013. On Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd, Chile presented its rebuttal.

What is the problem?

The core of the problem is the loss for Bolivia of sea access, which was the result of losing the war of the pacific (1879 to 1883) to Chile. While both countries have somewhat different versions of what started the war, it is possible to determine that the dispute was over taxes imposed by the Bolivian government to Chilean mines which were operating at the time in what was Bolivian-controlled territory.

The Chilean government saw this move counterproductive, and aided by foreign interests, namely by the British empire, it decided to intervene and as such declare war on Bolivia and Peru.

The war lasted some four years. Chile managed to march all the way into Lima and, in the process take control of the Bolivian Litoral department. Consequently, Bolivia formally lost control of its territory through the so called Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1904. This settled the dispute and laid down the new relations between the two countries. Among the conditions, Chile accepted to allow free access to commerce for Bolivian products in perpetuity. 

What is going on in the Hague?

In 2013, Bolivia filed a lawsuit against Chile at the ICJ. After a brief counter suit by Chile asking the court to clarify its jurisdiction, the court accepted the case and ruled it was within its jurisdiction.

Since then, both Bolivia and Chile have presented their cases in oral and written forms. This time around, between the 19th and the 23rd of March, both countries have their last opportunity to present their arguments in oral form. Bolivia presented its arguments on the 19th and the 20th and Chile presented its arguments on the 22nd and 23rd of March. These will be the last chance for both countries as a final decision is expected in the next months.

The arguments

Bolivia has been claiming its landlocked status has been a major factor against its economic development. The team of lawyers have made the argument that Chile, by its own conduct on the issue, has establish a record of willingness to addressing the Bolivian claim. This actions, if interpreted by the UN charter, establish legal grounds binding Chile to negotiate a solution for the Bolivian problem. In essence, Bolivia does not dispute the standing of the 1904 peace treaty but it asserts that Chile, through its conduct and actions, accepts the Bolivian issue is not resolved. Therefore, Bolivia asks the court to oblige Chile to enter negotiations in good faith with Bolivia to address its landlocked status.

Chile's main argument counters that Bolivia, with this course of action, pretends to impose a precondition for the negotiations it wants with Chile. It argues further, Bolivia is not simply seeking good-faith negotiations but rather, it is demanding a pre-commitment from Chile to an outcome of sovereign access.

The (possible) outcome

What is the most likely outcome to a dispute such as this? It is reasonable to expect the court will want to do justice to both sides. On the one side, it will want to move towards the Bolivian argument which reasonably asks for the opportunity to keep talking (even negotiating). At the same time, the court is likely to side with Chile at the moment of advising the two sides that no country is legally obliged to enter negotiations or talks expecting to cede territory to another country. The decision is most likely to be: yes both countries have to talk with one another, however it cannot be expected from Chile to enter such talks accepting to negotiate the terms for loss of sovereignty of its own territory.




January 24, 2018

New Cabinet 2018


Only two changes in Evo Morales' new cabinet. Alfredo Rada, who prviously was Minister of Government and Viceminister for Social Movements Coordination, was sworn now as Minister of the Presidency. In addition, Javier Zavaleta, former La Paz deputy for MSM, was sworn as Minister for Defense. The rest of ministers were ratified. 

There were many critical voices within MAS calling for the president to replace some ministers, such as the Health Minister and Minister for Culture, but it seems the president did think they were doing a good job.

Below, you will see a list of the new cabinet taken from the news agency Erbol.


January 17, 2018

Foreign Policy: The US's Approach to Latin America


Many authors have engaged the title of this post mainly to analyze why is the US' policy towards Latin America not working. While critical analysis is a desirable thing to do in order to, among other things, go forward or better (say a policy), in this topic many of the analyses seem verging on the obliviousness to real events. For that reason, an equal number of scholars have proposed new ways on which the formulation of such policy should be anchored on. This post is one more attempt at revising as well as analyzing US foreign policy towards Latin America and proposing a "new" approach, which, in my opinion, is necessary already.

Scholars of foreign policy or international relations like to start revisiting the Monroe Doctrine when thinking about US policy towards its more southern neighbors. For it was in 1823, as President James Monroe gave his annual state of the union speech that he formulated what later would become a fundamental piece of US foreign policy and relations. So fundamental, that even President Reagan referred to it during his presidency and the presidents thereafter did not singnificantly change.

The doctrine, written by Quincy Adams and influenced by Hamilton and others, stated that any attempt at re-colonize the newly independent countries in the Americas by European powers would be seen as a threat to the US. At the same time, the US would seek not to interfere with the remaining European colonies.

The doctrine was so fundamental because it did not only established an approach to address issues involving the Americas but also helped establish a sphere of influence beyond the borders of the United States. It recognized that the security of the US was secured when the borders of those other countries were also secure.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US government has been applying more or less the same approach in dealing with its southern neighbors. This approach involves the promotion of liberal democracy and the establishment of benefitious routes for trade. In the 1960s and 1970s and especially the 1980s, the issue of drug trafficking became one more pillar of that policy. While later on the issues of development and military cooperation also entered the formula. One issue left outside, but which has become fundamental has been the issue of migration south to north.

So every time a new president takes the oath to office in the US, latin americanists, policy analysts and the politically interested asked themselves how will the US policy towards Latin America look like during the next four years. An important question has been: does the US have a sufficiently coherent and adequately modern policy that guides its relationship with Latin America?

The short answer can be, yes, the US has had and still has one of the most coherent approaches towards the region. In fact, it is so coherent that it has not significantly changed since many decades, if not since Monroe. What has not happened is it has not been appropriately conditioned to the most recent developments in the whole region, not only within the US but also in Latin America.

How should this new approach look like?

First, the US should realize once and for all, the Latin American region has been living democracy since at least three decades. It is not the region anymore where the specter of communism was waiting to charge and take over; nor it is the region where a regime change meant a coup d'etat and military dictators were taking the reigns of government thinking they were the most fit to lead a nation.

Second, the US should think twice about continuing treating Latin America as its sphere of influence or its back yard. It should instead think of the region as its neighborhood where many countries with different cultures, ways of life and interests live.

Third, the US should think twice about concentrating heavily on the war on drugs when it deals with Latin America. I think I do not need to remind us that concentrating on one or few issues not only reduces alternatives but tends to simplify what otherwise would be a complex matter. Instead it should approach the region on the basis of a complex relationship with many sides, one of them being the war on drugs. Other important issues of this new era would be migration, financial integration, renewable energy, traditional energy, security, environment, etc.

Fourth, the US should realize that, while the focus on trade is the right thing to do, the emphasis on getting the best deal which might largely benefit one side is not beneficial. Instead, the US should realize that it is only to its benefit that the other side also benefits, and generousely. The larger benefit for the US would be strengthening a potential market of some 500 million people which might end up consuming many US products.

Fifth, the US should stop concentrating on the largest markets such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Instead, it should also work on strenthening smaller countries such as Ecuador, Peru or Uruguay or Bolivia, for that matter. In fact, it should try to bring to its side as many countries as possible.

Finally, the US should stop treating the countries in Latin America as if they were kids, even if many times they might behave like one. Instead, it should start treating these countries as partners, looking at them eye-to-eye, giving them the respect they are looking for around the world.


January 16, 2018

Freedom House 2018 Report on Freedom in the World and Bolivia


Freedom in the World 2018

Freedom House Website

With an alarming tone titles Freedom House its latest report on freedom in the world, Democracy in Crisis. Indeed, the authors of the report paint a dramatic picture of the world where democracy is under attack or on the decline. They write that political rights and civil liberties, the core values of the freedom in the world scores have been deteriorating around the world. Further, they say 2017 has been the 12th consecutive year democracy has been on decline, and that during this period 113 countries have suffered net declines while only 62 have experienced a net improvement.

Among the Latin American countries with the largest declines in the last 10 years are: Venezuela with -21, Nicaragua with -20, Honduras with -15,  Dominican Republic with -13, and Mexico with -11. Especially dramaticly depicted is the development of the US, which resembles a free fall. The graph the report presents is dramatic, but of course the score is not so. The one thing I find most troubling in the following graph is the arrow pointing down, which suggests to me the fall will continue.

As far as Bolivia is concerned, the authors continue with a negative evaluation of the developments in the country. Bolivia is scored at 67 of 100 possible points, where as you know 100 is most free. It is down one point from 68 in 2017.

The main reason why Bolivia is listed as decline is "due to a constitutional court ruling that abolished term limits and paved the way for President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019."

The country's report is not out yet, but you can take a look at the prior report. I expect to read many of the same things in the new report, plus an analysis of the constitutional court ruling and its developments.

December 06, 2017

Bolivia Elects New Justices of Higher Courts

On December 3, 2017, amidst a controversial decision by the country’s constitutional court that in the end allows president Morales to run for office for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time, Bolivians headed to the ballot boxes to elect justices for the higher courts of the judicial branch. The election results seem to have been significantly affected by the court’s decision. The null and blank votes reached 50 percent while the valid votes reached only a third of the total. These results, according to general interpretation, reflect an overwhelming rejection of the court’s decision and of Morales’ intentions to run for office once again.

Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution prescribes four institutions comprising the country’s judicial system. The constitution court is in charge of constitutional questions; the supreme court is there to address important legal cases; the council of magistrates is supposed to address administrative and disciplinary issues; and finally, the agro-environmental court addresses agricultural-environmental issues. All three courts and the council are headed by a board of justices, with different compositions. All these justices have been up for election this time around.

The results of Sunday’s elections show an out of the ordinary outcome at the national level in favor of the null and blank votes, i.e. over fifty percent, while valid votes make up about a third.
For the Agro-environmental court the null and blank votes are 52 and 14 percent respectively. In similar terms, 52 and 16 percent of voters chose to vote null and blank, respectively, when it came to the Council of Magistrates. These two sets of numbers came out after 97 percent of precincts were counted. Alternatively, the results for the supreme and constitutional courts are reported by department. In that manner, the average of null and blank votes on the nine departments is 48 and 17 percent respectively at the national level. The average of precincts counted is almost 99 percent.
The results highlighted here are preliminary and come directly from the electoral agency’s website at www.oep.org.bo where you can access them differentiated by institution and geography. At the same time, it is worth highlighting that the level of participation was an elevated 70 to 80 percent, depending on the department.

The government and the various oppositional groups have already offered their own interpretations of the results. The government interprets the judicial elections and its results as having achieved the intended purpose. First, the elections happened in an orderly and (to the publication of this article) clean manner. Second, justices for the four institutions were elected. The vice president argued any result with any number of votes would be more democratic compared to the previous appointment system. Third, the judicial system in Bolivia is better because the justices are elected by the population and not by congress. Finally, Bolivia is at the forefront in the world because it elects its high justices.

Meanwhile, opposition groups interpret the results mainly as an overwhelming rejection, first, to the constitutional court’s decision which in the end will allow Morales to run again for office and to Morales’ intention to run again. In addition, many groups are upset that because of these decisions (by the constitutional court and Mr. Morales’), the results of the past referendum held on February 21, 2016, when the no vote won with 52% against a government proposal to reform the 2009 constitution to allow re-election, are not being taking into account. In fact, many groups say this result is being ignored.

As a result, many groups have turned out into the streets to express their rejection and their unhappiness with the government’s actions. Many protests in major cities have been repressed by police and there have been some arrests and injuries of protesters. In Santa Cruz, there is a call to stage a general strike, halting business and day to day life. In Tarija, a group of students has entered into a hunger strike aiming at forcing the government, as they say, respect the country’s decisions. The government is also organizing gatherings in La Paz, to demonstrate support for its actions.
I expect these demonstrations to continue for at least some several weeks. Demonstrators seems resolute to resist the government’s actions. The political opposition is preparing several legal actions which involve submitting legal recourses to the constitutional court as well as appealing to international courts such as the inter-american human rights court.

December 04, 2017

Elections of Higher Post in the Judicial Branch


On Sunday, December 3, 2017, Bolivians headed once again to the ballot boxes to elect the members of higher courts. There are four instances to elect members of: the Tribunal Agroambiental (Agro-environment Tribunal), Consejo de la Magistratura (Magistrates Council - regulates and controls the judicial branch), Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Supreme Court), and the Tribunal Constitucional Plurinacional (Constitutional Court).

This is the second time such elections happen since the 2009 Constitution. The first time, in 2011, the process was qualified as normal. That meant, people went to vote, issued their votes and results were counted and new justices were elected. Yesterday's process was, to a large extent, "normal", with the exception that the number of blank and null votes exceeds 50%.

The reason for that is the decision of the outgoing Constitutional Tribunal that allows Evo Morales to run for an unprecedented fourth presidential term. Mas supporters submitted a petition to basically declare many articles in the 2009 constitution unconstitutional because they violated the political rights (ergo human rights) of anyone who wanted to run for office. The legal bases were the articles in an international piece of legislation that seeks to guarantee these rights. For more on that please read prior posts.

The result of that decision to accept the argument presented by the MAS was that Mr. Morales can (and will) run again for office in 2019. As you know, in presidential systems there is a long-standing belief sufficiently grounded by the founding fathers of the USA that presidents tend to want to perpetuate themselves in office. In these systems, the fact that a president seeks to stay in office more than what is allowed is seen as suspect. There is a very present association with authoritarian regimes, if not dictatorships.

In any case, the elections happened and now the electoral court is busy counting the votes of the people. Preliminary counts, what Bolivians call rapid count, already tell us that the blank and null votes are leading the way. As this video from the latest report tell us. It is from the electoral court, at 81% of all the precincts counted at 9:44 pm.

Source: Results at 80,7% count. Preliminary report from the TSE. https://youtu.be/zjJ7L_Z7Jk8 (December 3, Red Uno, 21:44 Hrs.)