My name is Miguel A. Buitrago. Welcome to my blog. If you want to know more about me visit my personal website. Thank you! Happy readings!!!

August 21, 2004

Here is a Quick Post

MABB is a registered TM.

Just thought you might enjoy a chuckle or two. I found a website created by Darren Barefoot (hm?). It is called "Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness". In it, Darren posts pictures of weird signs, like the ones you see below.

Mine

Back to Behind

August 18, 2004

Venezuela Referendum Update.

MABB is a registered TM.

The votes are casted. The veredict is out. At least for now.

About 58 per cent of Venezuelans opted to keep President Chavez in office. That is the result of last Sunday's referendum.

Mr. Chavez looked relieved and a bit more secure. On the other hand, as expected, the opposition cried foul!

The ones who are in a difficult position now are the international observers, Mr. Gaviria and Mr. Carter. They said, as far as they know, the voting was regular and clean. However, they want to conduct random audits to appease the critics.

Mr. Chavez's opposition do not want to accept this result nor they want to take part in the audits. They assure they found clear evidence the vote was rigged and will opt for other measures.

What will come of the situation? It is a tough one to call.

August 14, 2004

The Referendum on Chavez.

MABB is a registered TM.

Early on Sunday morning, August 15, Venezuelans will start the voting process of the referendum forced by the opposition. This referendum will decide whether President Hugo Chavez will continue as president of the Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela or leave office.

This Sunday's referendum is the culmination of a long and, at times, fierce battle between President Chavez and opposing forces. The opposition, led by businesses, business men and people from the middle classes in Venezuelan society, has long argued that Chavez is slowly turning himself into a populist autocratic leader (he was democratically elected in 1998). Indeed, there are many signs pointing to that effect. One example is the amendment of the constitution increasing the powers of the President's office. Another example is that at his initiative, the two chambers of congress were combined into one. Chavez's party dominates the new assembly. One last example is that he has just finished placing a majority of his supporters on the benches of the supreme court. Many critics in the world are worried that Chavez is indeed trying to consolidate his power and turn the oldest democracy in Latin America into an autocratic state.(rean a NYTimes article on this subject)

On the other hand, Mr. Chavez argues that his opponents are just trying to win back power to continue to exploit the poor and to go back to old policies that only benefited his opponents. Throughout this battle Venezuela has been deeply divided along social and economic clases. Those supporting President Chavez are mainly the poor and less well to do. Those supporting the opposition are the well to do and upper classes.

Even though the referendum will happen this Sunday, opposition forces have had to fight hard with Chavist forces for it to become a reality. Millions of people demonstrated against Mr. Chavez on the streets and almost force him out of office. But, by the same token, the other million demonstrated also in the streets in support of their President. There was so much trouble that the international community was worried about the results. Now, there are literally thousands of international observers from a wide array of international organizations. The most prominent are Cesar Gaviria, president of the Organization of the American States (OAS) and former US President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center (read more from the Carter Center on this issue). These observers have a hard day ahead of them. They will have to work amidst claims of irregularities on the part of the government to try to undermine the referendum.

This referendum is very important for Venezuela. No matter what the results are, if the process seems fair and no serious irregularities happen, the destabilization factor is greatly diminished. However, this bitter battle, it seems, will hardly stop at the referendum. The oppositions forces are very serious in their intent to removing Mr. Chavez from his office. They've tried a Coup d'Etat before, what's to stop them if they loose the referendum now? On his part, Mr. Chavez, is in the middle of consolidating his power. What is going to happen when he wins the referendum? Will he go all the way and become an autocrat? Moreover, what will happen if he loses the referendum? Will he go quietly? or will he rely on his supporters and followers, whom he was careful enough to spread them all over the governmental apparatus. For example, if the results get contested, the complaints will have to be directed to the National Electoral Council (CNE, Spanish acronym), agency legally responsible for the referendum. This agency, apparently, is staffed with Mr. Chavez's supporters and the argument is that they will stall the process and perhaps even rule in favor of Chavez.

It will be an interesting Sunday for Venezuela. One that will test the peoples resolve to solve their problems democratically. We will keep an eye on this part of the world.

August 13, 2004

Vacation Time!

MABB is a registered TM.

As a matter of update and for all the readers not to wonder why is there so little movement on this blog, I will be going on vacation the last half of August. I'll be sipping a delicious and aromatic coffee and eating a bland and buttery croissant on a sidewalk somewhere in Paris, by next week.

coffe at st germain paris
(Artist: Dorothy Spangler - "St. Germain-A Paris Favorite", Oil)

Of course, I will try to get to my blog whenever I can and do some posting.

So, wish me good.

August 10, 2004

Engaging in Gas Diplomacy.

MABB is a registered TM.

Bolivia, in the hands of the current administration, has embarked into, what I consider, uncharted diplomatic waters. The Mesa administration, as part of its foreign, economic and domestic policy, has been pressing Chile to enter into formal negotiations concerning the issue of a sovereign access for Bolivia to the Pacific coast. This is not surprising, considering that Bolivian governments have been attempting this since Bolivia lost its sea access as a result of the Pacific War. But, what is out of the ordinary in this case, is the fact that Mr. Mesa is using Bolivia's natural gas resources to force Chile into the negotiating table. This I call Gas Diplomacy. Chile, on the other hand, has pressed its heels into the sand and hardened its line.

I only have one question about this topic: Is it going to work?

Background
The Bolivian claim to its lost coastline has been an issue since the day the country lost the 1879 - 1884 Pacific War to Chile and signed away its territory with the "peace treaty" of 1904. Since then, Bolivia has been trying to recover its coastline, ports and territory. Every Bolivian has been and is still raised to believe in the inalienable right to the sea. And, for all governments since then, the right to recover precious access to the sea is a must policy. So important is this issue for Bolivians that the two involved countries have not had formal diplomatic relations to this day. It is the thorn which complicates every other aspect of these two neighbors' turbulent relationship.

At the heart of the problem is Bolivia's claim to an unjust invasion and a carefully planned territorial expansion in the part of the Chilean government (conveniently aided by British and American economic interests). The reasons Chile carried out this invasion, it is argued, was to gain control of the rich deposits of natural resources such as Saltpeter and Copper. Saltpeter was a much needed ingredient to use as a fertilizer to renew the already tired agricultural fields of Europe. Copper, later on, became a widely used metal in industry. To complicate matters even more, on June 3, 1929, Chile and Peru (Peru was bound by a mutual defense treaty with Bolivia and it also lost territory to Chile in the same war) signed the Treaty of 1929. This treaty attempted to resolve the territorial dispute between the two countries, which until then hadn't been finalized. In this treaty, article first of the complementary protocol states that any negotiation or concession of territory will have to be accepted by the two signatory countries. Thus, in any negotiation, between Bolivia and Chile about territory, Peru has to be involved and agree or disagree to the outcome. This effectively creates a diplomatic triangle which is hard to measure.

Diplomatic Line
There have been many attempts, by Bolivia, to negotiate not only its access to sea but to regain control of its lost territory (or at least part of it). Of these attempts the February 8, 1975 "Abrazo de Charana" (Embrace of Charana) between the then Bolivian dictator General Hugo Banzer Suares and his Chilean counterpart General Augusto Pinochet is the most famous.

Today, the diplomatic line is one of renewed strength through economic power. President Mesa, energized by the results of the July 18th referendum, used the very notion of exporting gas through a Chilean port to try to force Chile to the negotiating table. One major reason why Bolivia has failed to make any progress towards opening a door to the sea is because the country has had very little leverage when it came to negotiate. Now, that the rich natural gas reserves have been discovered and there is much interest over who will have a chance to benefit through the export of such resources, suddenly Bolivia finds itself with some cards to play. And it has already. The prospects of exporting the gas reserves through a Chilean port were very enticing for the Chilean government. However, there was still the issue of the sea access that needed to be resolved.

President Mesa and his team approached the problem from two fronts. One being the political front, with which they pressured Chile by appealing to the international community (OAS and UN) to intercede in favor of the Bolivian claim. Most recently, Chavez of Venezuela, Castro of Cuba, Lula da Silva of Brazil and Annan of the UN have uttered supporting words encouraging the resolution of this problem. The other front was the economic front. Since the export of natural gas to Chile, and through Chilean ports to other countries, was to be so profitable, Mr. Mesa threatened to completely ignore Chilean interests and export the gas through Peruvian ports (this were more expensive plans). He also placed conditions for the sale of gas reserves to Argentina to tighten the pressure a little more. Argentina was not to resale a drop of Bolivian gas to Chile.

But the Chilean government has not let up. Ricardo Lagos, president of Chile, has hardened his stance and has continuously said he would not give way to Bolivia's demands. His government, in a counter move, just privatized the Port of Arica. It is through this port that a large amount of Bolivian exports enter the international market. This move would essencially raise costs to Bolivian exporters, thus affecting the Bolivian economy. Bolivia, in response, is threatening to take Chile to court. The Bolivian government wants to present a complaint at the WTO. With this complaint, Bolivia will argue that Chile, by privatizing its Arica port, has created a monopoly. Since monopolies are with-in the WTO's competence and are actually illegal, the hope is that Chile's move will be declared illegal.

The Results, So Far...
On August 4, 2004, in Lima, Mr. Mesa has signed a document of understanding with president Toledo of Peru which prepares the ground for a closer commercial and energy integration between Bolivia and Peru. In this meeting it was also decided that Bolivian gas will be exported through the port of Ilo.

On the same day this document was signed by Bolivia and Peru, the Chilean army conducted military exercises in Iquique, 200 Km from the Chile-Peru border. This action sparked a diplomatic row between Peru and Chile, which was recently diffused by both governments.

Furthermore, on August 6, 2004, the government of Chile privatized its Arica port. This port is where 80% and 61% of Bolivian exports and imports, respectively, are handled. The privatization of Arica would raise costs on Bolivian goods and thus make them less competitive in the world.

So it looks like Chile, Bolivia and also Peru are stuck in a situation which does not seem to have good prospects. Bolivia as much as Chile has a lot to loose from frozen relations. However, the issue at hand is not easy to resolve. The Bolivian people are set on recovering their territory and their access to the Pacific. This makes it difficult for any government in power to try alternative solutions. It is a volatile issue. However, talks are said to be on the way. Here the two governments should decide whether to continue with the dispute or become practical and agree in favor of their mutual benefit.

August 06, 2004

Happy Birthday Bolivia!

MABB is a registered TM.

Today, August 6, 2004, Bolivia celebrates its 179th independence anniversary as a sovereign republic.
Congratulations Bolivia! May you continue celebrating your anniversary as a sovereign and independent democratic nation for many more years to come.


bandera_bolivia


The independence movement started one July 16, 1809. While Napoleon wreaked havoc in Spain during the Peninsular War of 1808 - 1814. After a bloody and turbulent struggle with the Spanish soldiers and the local loyalists, Bolivian patriots finally gained independence for Bolivia one August 6, 1825. It took 16 years and only God knows how many lives to attain independence as a nation.

Today, after 179 years, Bolivia continues to struggle but, this time, with different foes. Poverty, corruption, underdevelopment, political instability, foreign pressures, etc., are some of Bolivia's current enemies.

This time, as before, Bolivia will prevail against these new enemies. May this new millennium, bring many good things to Bolivia.

August 02, 2004

Learning a Secon Language: Spangles.

MABB is a registered TM.

Now a days it is important to learn a second language. Here are lessons to learn Spangles from the Chortler site. See if you would like to learn this popular language. Here is an example.

SPANGLÉS: LECCION 11
Señor Donald Rumsfeld, El Greatest Secretario Of
Defense En La Historia.

This week in Spanglés we investigatamos the
careero of Señor Donald Rumsfeld, el greatest secretario of defense en la
historia de los United States.

All the peopleos of el worldo like Señor
Rumsfeld because he is muy modesto and sensitivo, just like his bosso, Señor
Jorge Bush, el greatest statesmeno in la historia.

(Only los weirdos --
como los two remaining liberalos en los United States y las personas de Old
Europa -- no likear Señor Rumsfeld.)

Because Señor Rumsfeld is muy, muy
timido, he does not like to bragar and actar muy macho in fronte de las cameras
de television if he thinks he is righto. Por example, he would never embarassar
un journalisto for asking un question stupido. On el contrario, Señor Rumsfeld
likes to considerar and valuear los opinions de others when making los
decisions.

For Señor Rumsfeld, el trutho is imperativo. Thereforo, he
would never makear los accusations incredibles based on evidencia inconclusiva.


As el greatest secretario de defense en los United States, it is muy
necessario for Señor Rumsfeld to stay el courso y remainar en his job for la
peace y security of el entire worldo.

If you would like to learn more, go to this link.

Thumbs Up for Mesa and His Government.

MABB is a registered TM.

Two of the major challenges for Bolivia, in my opinion, are corruption and education. The latter is essential to strengthen the core of Bolivia, its people. Education does not only give people the ability to read and write, so the people are able to function with in the system (filling out forms, reading the newspapers, making informed decisions, etc., etc., etc.). Education also helps to build character; it helps people grow as human beings; it opens people's minds and it is a way to raise ones standard of living by also making it possible to have more opportunities.

On the other hand, corruption is the opposite to education. Corruption is a malignant cancer which grows and grows inside the system until it spreads all throughout the country and stops its normal and healthy functioning. Corruption is a malady that has affected Bolivia for too long.

That is why I was enthusiastic when the government implemented its educational reform. But I am even more optimistic when I hear President Mesa speaking out against corruption and actually doing something about it. Never mind whether it is a good thing to do or not. That judgment will come on its own time. The single action of just doing something is encouraging, in a country that has not been doing enough.

On the evening of July 31, 2004 Mesa gave a bold step proclaiming his newest Decreto Supremo (D.S.) (Supreme Decree). On his speech in national television, which was carefully timed to be soon after parliamentary recess, Mesa surprised the nation presenting his newly proposed Hydrocarbons Law (energy policy) and his intention to fight corruption by designating 17 new officials in the Judicial Branch to posts which haven't been officially filled for close to a decade. This move puts pressure to Congress, which has the task of nominating and confirming such posts, but has not been able to do it due to internal divisions.

Mesa-aprobacion-popMesa took this action greatly encouraged by the referendum results of last July 18. According to a recent poll published by La Razon, Mesa and his entire government have a high approval rating, which translates into political strength based on support from the Bolivian population. This poll was conducted on the three major cities Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz (including El Alto). According to the poll, 46% of the people questioned are satisfied with the referendum results. Another 68% think President Mesa and his cabinet are doing a good job. That is an increase of 1% over the previous month. It is not much, but an increase is an increase. It is at least the right direction. About 80% of the people polled are optimistic that Bolivia will be able to export its Natural Gas. In this turbulent times, optimism is a good sign.

The next step will have to be taken by the Congress. They will have to consider the two proposals and debate over them. Although there are already indications from some members of the NFR and MNR that these proposals will meet opposition, the two proposals were received with relative acceptance by the different factions in Cogress. It still remains to be seen, what Evo and MAS will have to say about them.

The government is relatively strengthened and Mesa is showing Bolivians he means business. Lets hope these new steps will be an improvement and that corruption is on its way out of Bolivia.

August 01, 2004

The Real Reason Why Nader is Running for President

MABB is a registered TM.

Normally, politicians run for president because they think they can make the lives of all Americans better. Case in point, the other night, John Kerry, told his democratic base on the last night of the DNC along the rest of the nation on prime time TV, he was ready to serve the people of the US and he was reporting for duty.

Much in the same manner, Ralph Nader, the self described alternative presidential candidate, has asserted he too was ready to serve the American people. He said the American electoral process was dominated by the two de facto parties and that it was in desperate need of alternatives. Nader thinks of himself as just that, the alternative candidate. He often says his candidacy is just to provide a voice to those people who feel betrayed by the establishment parties.

AAA...I don't think so! I think he is joining the race to satisfy his personal need of getting attention. Look at this picture and tell me if that is not true.

maher-moore-beg-nader
(Image by AP)

Here you have it. He just wants to be begged. Can you see how much is he enjoying it?

And what is the deal with Michael Moore anyways. Is he really willing to do anything to get Bush out of the White House? Never mind, that is another issue.

As you may have noticed, no Democrat is appealing Nader to drop off the race in quite the same manner Maher and Moore are doing it here. The close it came was a televised debate between Nader and Gov. Dean on NPR's Justice Talking on July 9 of this year. (here is a link to a C-SPAN video best viewed by broad band connection and here is a link to NPR's articles.)

What the Democrats are surely doing though, is drawing a strategic response. If it were that Nader does take away votes from the Democrats and as a direct result they loose their bid to the White House, the Democrats are to change their official seal. Here is the new official seal.

democratic-seal

I am just kidding! I just thought I liven up this race a little bit. Although, in all seriousness, it is getting really interesting. Kerry is proving to be a formidable opponent for Bush. He is slowly, but surely, doing what he has to do and he is doing it good. He is presenting himself to the voters as a human being. Apparently, many thought he was not a real human being. He is also presenting himself as tough and decisive. Most people thought he was not tough enough to lead the US in war times. And finally, he is not shying away from the "values" debate and, surprisingly, he is also willing to talk about faith. He is really reaching into Bush's territory here. He is really going for it.

It only remains to see if Bush puts up a fight or not. Most likely he will. I think we will see this time what is Bush really made of. Last time he did not have much work to do. I mean, Gore was not much of an opponent. He did not have much appeal, I'd say. This time, he really has his work cut out.

If you ask me, Bush better loose his "shadow" president and bring McCain on board as his partner. Cheney does him more bad than good.

It is shaping up to be an enthralling race. The last 90 days will be intense, not only for the candidates, but also for the voters.