January 24, 2014

Morales "Renews" his Cabinet


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


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.


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


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


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.

November 28, 2013

Deepening the Process of Change in Bolivia


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


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


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


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"


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?